An unusual tenant in raptor nest: Greylag Goose

GraugansA head looks cheeky from a huge nest 8 meters high in a European Larch (Larix decidua) in a sparsely leafy, mixed forest. The orange-pink beak is conspicuous and, in connection with the gray-brown head, only allows one breeding species to be itentified: a Greylag Goose (Anser anser). The bird sits crouched on the nest and would otherwise not have been noticed by the passing observer in the pine forest. Actually in search of the Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), this discovery was a real first. I had never found a Greylag Goose nest other than on the ground. A subsequent research in the internet did not yield any indications either. The nest seems to have a rather shallow hollow. Otherwise the big goose would be able to hide deeper in the nest. The fact that the Greylag Goose breeds is also supported by the fact that the goose was still sitting on the nest on the following days, albeit in a different way. So the goose seems to change the direction of the seat from time to time and probably also to re-sort the eggs. A few days later, the edge of the nest was padded with nest dunes to such an extent that individual dunes protruded from the sides of the nest.

Something similar to a breeding goose in a bird of prey nest can only be found in Central European literature for the Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea). This bird prefers nests in rock caves or cave-like structures and depressions. But the Shelduck also uses abandoned raptors nests for her eggs.

Now the question is which raptor built the nest. The Goshawk had successfully brooded in a nearby nest and hat raised 2 young last year. But its nest was much smaller. White-tailed Eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) might be an option. These eagles build huge clumps of branches and twigs. The nest hollow is lined with grass and moss. In Central Europe, mainly old trees are used for nesting. In Northern Germany, beeches (Fagus sylvatica) are preferred, in Brandenburg mainly Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris). New nest structures have a diameter of about 1.2 to 1.5 meters and a height of 50 to 80 centimeters. That could roughly correspond to the size of the observed nest. It is known that many White-tailed Eagles areas have one or more changing nests, which are often used alternately for decades. If it’s a White-tailed Eagles nest, one can only hope that the Greylag Goose will go unmolested. This year the Goshawk called from close by, without the Goose appearing noticeably impressed or even frightened. It will be exciting to see how the young will feel comfortable in the nest and then come out of the nest.

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4 comments

  1. Interesting story.
    I wonder if the abandoned nest was a curvidae family bird🤔 Sometimes their nests are in the very top of trees. They also can be huge as the eagles ones (when the curvidae flock is big /all of them help to build the nest.)
    Regards
    Karina

    1. Thanks Karina. Yes for me the nest looks so bulky, that I was thinking of a White-tailed Eagle-nest already. But maybe just a Raven-nest. Cheers…..

  2. Hi Jonas,
    A “conspiracy “ or “unkindness” ( that is the name for a group of ravens) can be creepy and setup a nest for other species, so they will eat the eggs later. They also star building a nest with sticks ( no a deep nest.)So, some inexperienced eagles will finish to build it. When the eggs have been there for a few days or weeks. The “conspiracy” will enjoy them.
    It will be interesting to know White-tail Eagles chose to build their nest in other species of trees rather than Scots pine in Europe. I guess everything is possible and we have to be open to new discoveries.
    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and experience. 😉
    Regards
    Karina Scott

  3. Hi Jonas,
    How did you go finding what bird built the huge nest?
    Was an eagle or stork etc . .?
    What did happen to the GG ( Greylag Goose)?
    Regards
    Karina

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