Movements and feeding ecology of white-fronted geese at the New Grounds, Slimbridge.
During 3 seasons from 1968 to 1971 movement and feeding habits of European white-fronted geese (Anser a. albifrons Scopoli) were studied in the New Grounds area in Gloucestershire, England, which consists of about 506 ha reclaimed grassland bounded by a canal and a river. The numbers and distribution of the geese were related to disturbance, availability of feed and other factors. The greatest number of geese in the area was 6600 in 1968-69, 7600 in 1969 and 6000 in 1970-71, the numbers in 1969-70 due to a successful breeding season. The main factor affecting goose distribution was disturbance caused by other animals, aircraft, goose hunting, roads and canals, traffic, agricultural practices, especially stock feeding. Feed was usually adequate, but heavy grazing by stock, especially sheep, decreased the amount of feed available for the geese. The amount of feed available varied with season and depended on weather and agricultural changes. When feed was not readily available the geese were forced to feed in areas of high disturbance. Geese preferred heavily grazed pasture where the grass was younger and more nutritious to reseeded pasture and preferred better pasture mixtures to fibrous wild grasses. Geese also preferred wet fields with standing water. It was thought that the British wintering population of A. a. albifrons will increase with the drainage of Continental sites and some improvements to the New Grounds area are suggested.