The Pink-footed goose is the most common type of goose in Svalbard. It has a short bill, that is bright pink in the middle with a black base and tip, and pink feet. The body is mid-grey-brown, the head and neck a richer, darker brown, the rump and vent white, and the tail grey with a broad white tip. The upper wing-coverts are pale bluish-grey, and the flight feathers are blackish-grey in color.
Pink-footed geese breed in eastern Greenland, Iceland, and Svalbard and migrate to spend winter in northwest Europe, especially Ireland, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and western Denmark. They breed on cliffs, rocky outcrops, riverbanks near vegetation in open arctic tundra and also on islets in lakes. Outside of the breeding season, Pink-footed geese can be found in estuaries, wet meadows, saltmarshes, mudflats, near seas or lakes and on flat agricultural land.
Pink-footed geese are gregarious birds. They feed, nest and molt in large colonies. They are active during the day spending most of the time foraging and at night birds roost on water. Before migration, Pink-footed geese undergo a flightless molting period that lasts around a month; during this time birds remain close to open water. After molting they migrate to the wintering grounds. Southbound migration takes place from mid-September to early October, and northbound migration occurs from mid-April to early May. Pink-footed geese are highly vocal birds; they produce a medley of high-pitched honking calls, being particularly vocal in flight.
Pink-footed geese are herbivores (folivores, graminivores). In summer, they feed on a wide range of tundra plants, both on land and in water; this includes stems, sedges, mosses, roots and also berries. In winter, they graze primarily on oilseed rape, sugar beet, potato, and various grasses.
Pink-footed geese are monogamous breeders and pairs mate for life. They breed in loose colonies or in pairs. These birds often nesting on cliffs close to glaciers to provide protection from predators (mainly Arctic fox) and also on islets in lakes. Nests are scrapes in the ground lined with plants and down. Females lay up to six eggs in early to mid-May in Iceland or late May in Svalbard. The incubation lasts 26-27 days done by the female; during this time the male stays nearby guarding her and the nest. The goslings hatch precocial and are able to accompany their parents on foot to the nearest lake soon after hatching. They fledge after about 56 days and become reproductively mature at 3 years of age.
The main threats to Pink-footed geese include illegal hunting and human disturbance during the nesting period. These birds are quite timid and abandon their nests when disturbed. They can be alarmed by distant noises from helicopters and by people who move close to molting areas. Pink-footed geese also suffer from persecution by farmers because they cause damage to crops in agricultural areas.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of Pink-footed geese is around 410,000 individuals. The European population consists of 57,000-74,000 pairs, which equates to 114,000-148,000 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are increasing.