The Greylag is the most prolific of the grey goose species that are now found in Ireland. There are sizeable breeding populations on many of the major waterways, and around the coastline of the north and east of the island. The greylag numbers are swollen each year by migratory birds arriving, first to Northern Ireland in late October/November and then moving further south into the Wexford area on Ireland's south east coast during December and January. Many of these migrating birds that have travelled from the tundra of Northern Europe, stop off in Scotland for several weeks before being pushed to Ireland's shores by the onset of the winter in northern Britain.
At one time the white fronted goose was the largest migratory species of goose that over-wintered in Ireland. Like the wigeon, loss of habitat has been cited as the main contributing factor to the decline of the species in Ireland over the last forty years. Some still can be found in the coastal regions of the western coast but their numbers are now so depleted that protection is afforded to this species in most parts of Ireland. Sir peter Scott, who was a regular visitor to the Downpatrick Marshes in the eastern part of Northern Ireland, commented upon the arrival each year of tens of thousands of European white-fronted geese to those rich winter flood meadows. The flood meadows are long ago drained and with their disappearance went too the skeins of white fronts.
Canada geese were introduced to Ireland as ornamental species in the early part of the 20th century. Since then they have established themselves to such a degree in certain parts of the country as to now be considered as a pest species. The Lough Erne area of County Fermanagh, in Northern Ireland has a particularly high number of Canada geese on the system of waterways that drain the County. Canadas were added to the quarry species list in the mid 1990s and and the only species of black necked geese that can be legally shot in Ireland.
The Bean goose is not so common in Ireland, although some will migrate to the North East of the country during December and January. Smaller than the Greylag, the bean goose is not found in sufficiently large numbers in Ireland as to be considered as a quarry species. The bean goose is afforded total protection under the various Irish Wildlife Orders.
This small goose is a migrant to North East Ireland from its breeding grounds in Iceland. A small breeding population can be found on Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland. The species is afforded protection from shooting for many decades. Over a century ago in Ireland the Barnacle goose was thought to have developed from the barnacles that encrust ships and boats. Local people at that time had little concept of the migratory habits of birds generally and explained their appearance each year in this fashion . This, of course, may have been a story of convenience because as a seafood and not fowl it meant that barnacle geese could be eaten on Fridays when, traditionally their religious beliefs barred them from eating meat, game or fowl!
The pink food is a goose more associated with the East of Scotland and England rather that Ireland. However, a number of pink footed geese do migrate as far west as the North Irish coast from November onwards. Wildfowlers on the coastal lough systems of Northern Ireland do benefit from the influx of migratory pinks. The hard weather conditions that often ravage the eastern highlands of Scotland force pink footed geese farther westward to the milder winter climate of Ireland's north eastern plain. Here the Irish wildfowlers eagerly await the incoming skeins of "pinks".
The numbers of Brent geese over-wintering in Northern Ireland has been increasing over the last twenty years to an extent that the coastal regions of the Eastern part of the country now had two third of the European population of the light bellied varied of Brent geese migrating there. In ecological terms the knock on effect for the wigeon that once migrated to the same region has been significant with a proportional reduction in the population of migrating wigeon. the Brent goose is afforded total protection from shooting.