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Identifying the mystery goose


This is the goose skeleton we found last month in a field next to the Pheasant Woods. About a half a mile from where we found it are some lochs where geese come from other countries to stay during the winter.

It looked like it had died in the air and fallen down. Even though it was all rotted down to bones, all the bones were still joined together.

When we saw it, we didn't know what type of bird it was. I thought it was a goose, because it had a bill like a duck but it was too big to be a duck. We took the skull to take home and clean up and work out what it was.

The skull still had some skin and feather on it, so we put it in some water to rot down like we did with the mallard skull last year. Then the water froze when we had all the snow last month ! But luckily the skull wasn't damaged.

After three weeks we took it out the water, and Dad took off the last of the skin with tweezers. This was the skin from the inside of the top of the mouth. It almost looks like teeth. This lets the goose suck up water from lochs without bits of dirt getting in by filtering small bits out.

After we took it out the water, I put it in hydrogen peroxide to clean it and make it white. This is what it looked like afterwards.

To work out what type of goose it was, I used the RSPB Bird Identifier. I put in that I found it on farmland, that it was bigger than a mallard, that it had a bill like a duck, and that it had grey feathers. It said it was probably a barnacle goose, a bean goose, a Canada goose, a brent goose or a pink-footed goose. Then I put in that it had pink feet, and it said it had to be a pink-footed goose.

To make sure, I used Skull Site, and looked at the picture of the skull for a pink-footed goose, and the picture looked the same. (The pink-footed goose has an extra bump at the back of the skull above where the spine goes in.)

You can read about the pink-footed goose here. They don't live in Scotland, but they come here in winter from Iceland and Greenland.

When I was writing this, I remembered that I had another goose skull, but I never worked out what species it was. When I looked at it, I found it was a pink-footed goose too ! Here is a picture of that skull at the bottom, next to a swan skull at the top and a mallard skull in the middle.

There was another thing about the skeleton that was interesting. We could see the furcula, the bone that birds and dinosaurs have that confused us when we first found it. You can see it below.

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