Wild geese

BEAN GOOSE (Anser fabalis)

Bean Goose is the real celebrity of Tata. This breed of wild goose is that made the “Öreg Tó”(Old Lake) of Tata famous. This lake is the most significant winter resting place of the bean goose in the Carpathian Basin, where they can be seen by the tens of thousands.

It is a large bodied gray colored goose. Its body is 66-84 cm long and its wingspan is 142-175 cm. Its body weight can be 2200-4000 grams.

The female (hen) is smaller and lighter, than the male. The color of its feather usually light brown to dark brown, with white pattern. Its belly is white, the beak is large and the neck is long. The feet are orange; the beak is blackish, with parts of lemon color turning into orange.

It makes a sound like “ang-ang” with a deep voice. It is monogamous specie, choosing its mate for life, with strong family ties.

5 varieties of subspecies are known around the world. Here, in the Carpathian Basin only two have been absorbed in large numbers, the “anser fabalis fabalis” and the “anser fabalis rossicus”.

In Hungary they are not nature protected. It is allowed to hunt for them with daily restricted limitation from October to January. It is a wintering migratory bird.

It doesn’t lay eggs in our land. It could mostly be found west of the Danube River in large numbers.

It lays its eggs near water, on the northern part of Europe and Asia.

In the last few years for unknown reason their multiplication is decreasing. This disturbing fact, its reduction in population is very obvious in Tata. Ten years ago bean geese were about 90% of the wintering birds’ population around the “Öreg Tó” (Old Lake). Today there are only 15-25% of them are Bean Geese. This tremendous decrease in number might prohibit their hunting in the near future; also they might be defined endangered species.

On the other hand they still appear around the “Öreg Tó” (Old Lake) by the thousands and spend the winter here. The first groups arrive around the last week of September, early October. Than by the 20th of October they come by the hundreds, finally after the 5th of November thousands and thousands of them arrive to stay till the beginning of March, unless the extremely cold winter forces them to fly further south.

The bean goose is vegetarian. In our country it feeds on corn, grass and various seeds.

After their morning flight for food, during the day they hang out around the water to drink, spruce their feathers and rest. Before sundown they fly out for food again, than after dusk they settle down for the night.

WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE (Anser albifrons)

It is a large sized gray goose. It is 65-78 cm long, wingspan 130-165 cm; weight is 1800-3100 grams. The feathers on the body are grayish brown toned, on its forehead there is a white spot as wide as its beak, rounding up to the line of the eyes, than rounding down. This doesn’t appear in the first year of their lives. The spot on the forehead and the stripes on the belly could be different on each bird. The stripes on the tail feathers and the pleating on the bottom of the tail are white.

Its eyes are dark brown. The beak is pink (the Greenlandic variety has yellow beak) and the feet are bright yellow. The tip of the wing is all the way down at the end of the tail.

The Hungarian name “lilik” came from the sound of its voice, which has a very loud and recognizable distinctive “lilik-lilik” call.

There are five subspecies known world-wide, all of them live in Eurasia and in swampy areas of North America by the sea, where the winters are mild. They spend the winters in the southern part of both countries.

They make their quest appearance by the tens and hundreds of thousands in the Carpathian Basin during the winter.

Their population is constantly growing; in Tata they took the lead by overpowering numbers from the bean goose. They are now the leading variety of species wintering in our country. They are dominant over other birds in Transdanubia and the Great Plains, since the number of the bean goose is decreasing.

They are not under protection in Hungary; could be hunted from October to January, limitations are only on the daily prey quantity.

The white fronted goose usually migrates and winters around the “Öreg Tó” (Old Lake) by the tens of thousands.

The first groups arrive around the last week of September, after the 20th of October they come by the thousands and after the 15th of November tens of thousands fly in and stay to the beginning of March, unless the weather forces them down further to the south.

The white fronted goose is herbivorous; it feeds on canola, grass, corn and various seeds. After their morning flight for food, they take trips to drink, to rest and spruce their feathers around a peaceful lake or river. They go to eat some more before the sun goes down, than at dusk they return to their resting area to settle down for the night.

In all the areas here they feed in large numbers, they might cause some damage. Of course we can’t go into extremes as far as the extents of these damages are, neither can we say, that they pollute the water of the lakes and rivers where they drink and rest by the thousands. For decades they are part of the natural habitat of the “Öreg Tó” (Old Lake). But the danger of pollution of the lake is a problem, which is coming from industrialization and the lack of proper sewage system.   

GRAYLAG GOOSE (Anser anser)

This is the largest structured European wild goose.

Its length is 76-89 cm, wingspan 150-180 cm, bodyweight 2.2-4 kilogram. The female (hen) is a lot smaller than the male. Its back is brownish gray; the breast is yellowish gray, with irregular scattered spots. The streak down the back, the belly and the lower part of the tail is white. The wing and the tail feathers are blackish gray, the stems of the feathers are white all the way to the tips. The eyes are light brown; the base of the beak is flash color, the claws are waxy yellow and the legs are light flash color. It is typical for this breed, that the light, almost white color feathers of the wings are only visible, when the bird is flying. Its thick pink beak and pink legs are clearly noticeable, when the bird is flying. These characteristics distinguish them from all the other type of geese found in our area. The feet of the white fronted goose and the bean goose are bright yellow. The graylag goose is recognizable by the sound of its voice even in its flight, it sounds very much like a regular domesticated goose’s gaggle.

They are not under protection in Hungary, they could be hunted from October to December, and limitations are only on the daily pray quantity.

It lays its eggs at several areas in Europe, but it can be found in a wide spread area, all the way to China.

It nests regularly in our country. Its favorite places are open areas usually nearby water, lakes and reeds. 40-50 nesting couples are regularly spotted in Esztergom-Komarom County; they are coming here, to spend the winter.

In their nesting period they feed on weeds, grass and sprouts. During the fall they wonder into fields of corn stubble, to eat the corn left on the ground. They even scrape the seeds out of the snow. Later in January they eat the sprouts of grain and canola; however they rarely cause any damage in the fields.

Its population in Hungary is steadily growing probably because of the hunting ban periods and the protection they enjoy. Their only enemies are poachers and foxes, especially in nesting periods their hatchlings are killed by the wondering foxes.

All year around there are 200-300 birds live in the Tata area, but at the peak of their migration there must be 1500-1700 of them.

It is interesting how they avoid the “Öreg Tó” (Old Lake), there are only a few groups are spotted here from time to time.


Bean Goose, White Fronted Goose and Graylag Goose are coming to the “Öreg Tó”(Old lake) and to the surrounding fishponds by the tens of thousands, but sometimes there are other variety of birds have been recognized here. We can say, that almost all types of geese of Europe (eight different varieties) have been absorbed here. Their emergence is a true event that happens once in a while through the years. These rare species are wintering by the sea-shores of the continent and they very seldom appear in the Carpathian Basin mingling with the many of thousands of birds that are coming here every winter. A good indication of the “value” of the “Öreg Tó” (Old Lake) is, that almost all the variety of wild geese shows regular presence. Of course to observe them individually or in smaller groups requires persistency, patients, a good pair of binoculars and most of all good luck. If we arrive to the “Öreg Tó”(Old Lake) prepared and armed with all of the above, we might have a chance to take part in this great adventure. The only thing we have to be able to do, is to recognize them in the crowd of tens of thousands of birds.



Pink Fronted Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) 
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
Lesser White-Fronted Goose (Anser erythropus) 
Branacle Goose (Branta leucopsis)
Bar–Headed Goose (Anser indicus) 
Brent Goose (Branta bernicla)
Snow Goose (Anser caerulescens) 
Red Breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis)



Lesser White Fronted Goose (Anser erythopus)

This is one of the smallest types of wild goose. Its length is 53-66 cm, wing span is 120.-135 cm, and bodyweight is 1600-2500 grams. It resembles to the larger and more frequently appearing white fronted goose, but it has a very conspicuous yellow ring around the eyes, and a white spot on the forehead, that continues to the middle of the forehead. Its voice is a lot higher than its large relative’s.

The Lesser White Fronted Goose is close to the extinction and it became a globally endangered species. It is under nature protection in Hungary; its nature conservation financial value is 1.000.000 HUF.

It lays its eggs beyond the Arctic Circle in Eurasia near small lakes and swamps. It has a stabile migration route through the “Hortobágy” heading south to Greece to the Ervos-Delta.

After the short Nordic summer the Lesser White Fronted Goose gets on its way and it can be seen in our country from September on. If the winter is mild, it stays on, but usually it can be spotted again from March and April. They are only around every couple of years in small groups, or only a few specimens come to the “Öreg Tó”(Old Lake), but those occasions are celebrated events.

Red Breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis)

This is also a smaller type of goose, which cannot be mistaken with any other bird with its rich variety of colors, chestnut red black and white. In spite of this, it is hard to notice it in a crowd of wild goose, because of its small size. It is a globally endangered species, which nests in West-Siberia and it winters mostly at the side of the Caspian-Sea and the Black-Sea in Romania and Bulgaria.

In the Carpathian Basin they occur in small groups, sometimes they wander to the “Öreg Tó” (Old Lake) of Tata in small numbers (maximum 51 birds has been seen till now).

In Hungary it is a highly nature protected bird; its nature conservation value is 500,000 HUF.