The name “Svalbard Islands” derives etymologically from ancient Norwegian and literally means “cold coasts”. It is no coincidence that nature has had to adapt to the freezing temperatures in a surprising way. Considering that only 10% of the land is covered by vegetation, such as tundra, mosses and lichens, with the remaining percentage being ice and mountains, which animals would be able to survive these conditions? Polar bears, arctic foxes, walruses and … barnacle geese, of course.
What do barnacle geese have in common with other breeds of geese
Like many breeds of geese, even barnacle geese prefer to spend the coldest months in a warm, comfortable spot. This is why it is common to see them at Svalbard, while they stroll quietly in the company of the reindeer – but only before they leave the islands to overwinter further south at the end of autumn. They have a very docile and mild nature and tend to create a very close-knit family. Barnacle geese couples are not only monogamous birds: be very wary of getting near to their nests! The only time when females will attack any approaching strangers is when they are defending their eggs and chicks.
This particular breed of goose is characterized by a long black neck that strongly contrasts their white cheeks and forehead.
The wild barnacle geese vs domestic geese
Humans tamed wild geese thousands of years ago and it is from these that our domestic geese descend. They are a very different breed from that of the barnacle goose, but no less valuable. Although predominantly raised for their feathers and meat, many families around the world adopt geese as pets: a completely different life to that of the barnacle geese, who are used to flying over the Arctic seas at the first sign of frost.
Comparing guard geese and barnacle geese
Whether it’s the barnacle geese of Svalbard Islands or the most common domestic geese, there’s so much to learn about these strange birds. The latter are very affectionate animals that tend to follow their master wherever they go, but if necessary they can turn into fearsome guard geese. Whether male or female, they are a territorial animal that defends everything that they consider their space. Just like having a mastiff with a beak and two legs!
On the other hand, the barnacle goose is a wild and free animal, ready to take off on new adventures whenever it wishes.