Birds by Name – G
The Gadwall, Anas strepera, is a grey-coloured dabbling duck belonging to the family Anatidae and breeds in northern Europe, Asia and central North America. It is usually found near reservoirs, gravel pits and lakes where there is abundant vegetation.
The Gadwall, slightly smaller than a Mallard, grows up to 56 centimetres in length and can have a wingspan of up to 90 centimetres.
The male is patterned grey with a distinct black rear end, chestnut brown wings with a white patch. The slightly smaller female is light brown, a bit like a female Mallard, with a white belly.
The Gadwall eats leaves, seeds and other vegetation.
Species: A. strepera
The Gannet, Morus bassanus, is large seabirds in the family Sulidae. Adults are white with black wingtips. They have a long neck, long pointed beak, long pointed tail, long pointed wings and an orange head.
Gannets hunt fish by diving from a height of up to thirty metres into the sea and pursuing their prey underwater. They can reach speed of up to 100 kph when they strike the water and they have air sacs in their face and chest under their skin to cushion the impact.
Gannets also have no external nostrils, which also helps them hunt underwater.
They eat fish, fish and more fish. Their appetite led to the use of the word ‘Gannet’ being used as a derogatory term to describe humans who eat rather a lot or to excess.
Species: Morus bassanus (Northern Gannet), Morus capensis (Cape Gannet), Morus serrator (Australasian Gannet)
The Glaucous Gull, Larus hyperboreus, is a large gull which breeds in the Arctic regions of the northern hemisphere and the Atlantic coasts of Europe. It is migratory, wintering in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans and as far south as the British Isles and northernmost states of the USA.
This is a large and powerful gull, pale and with white wing tips and tail. Adults are pale grey with a thick yellow bill. Juveniles are very pale grey with a pink and black bill.
Glaucous gulls average 68 centimetres in length, have a wingspan of around 155 and can weigh up to 1.55 kilos.
These gulls are omnivores and will eat fish, insects, molluscs, offal, eggs, small birds, small mammals and carrion as well as seeds, berries and grain – basically anything and everything, they don’t seem to be too fussy about what they eat.
Species: L. hyperboreus
The Goldcrest, Regulus regulus, is a very small member of the kinglet family. It has greenish upper parts, whitish underside and has two white wingbars. It has a bright head crest, orange and yellow in the male and yellow in the female.
The Goldcrest breeds in coniferous woodland and gardens, building its compact nest on a tree branch. Ten to twelve eggs are incubated by the female alone but the chicks are fed by both parents. The Goldcrest eats small spiders and other insects.
Species: R. regulus
The Goldfinch, Carduelis carduelis, is a colourful member of the Finch family, Fringillidae, 12–13 cm long with a wingspan of 21–25 cm and weighing in at between 14 and 19 grams.
The sexes are fairly similar, with a red face, black and white head, brown upperparts, white underparts with buff flanks and breast patches, and black and yellow wings. Male Goldfinches can often be distinguished by a larger, darker red mask that extends just behind the eye. In females, the red does not reach the eye. The bill is long and pointed, and the tail is forked.
They are usually to be found where there are scattered bushes and trees, rough ground with thistles and other seeding plants.
Species: C. carduelis
The Goosander, Mergus merganser, or Common Merganser is a large, shy diving duck with a long serrated hooked bill for grasping fish and is found near rivers and lakes of forested areas of Europe, northern and central Asia, and North America. It nests in holes in trees.
The Goosander grows to between 58 and 72 centimetres in length with a wingspan of between 78 and 97 centimetres. Adult males in breeding plumage have a white with a bit of a salmon-pink tinge, a black head with a green gloss, grey rump and tail. Females, and males in non-breeding plumage, are mainly grey, with a reddish-brown head, white chin, and white secondary feathers on the wing. Juveniles of both sexes are similar to adult females but also have a short black-edged white stripe between the eye and bill.
They eat fish, fish and more fish.
Species: M. merganser
The extremely colourful Gouldian Finch, Erythrura gouldiae, looks like it was fashioned out of patchwork. There are breeding populations all over the world but this finch is endemic to a fairly small area in Australia.
The Gouldian Finch – also known as Lady Gouldian Finch, Gould’s Finch or, in America, the Rainbow Finch – is named after the wife of ornithological artist John Gould.
Gouldian Finches are between 13 and 14 centimetres long and the heads can be red, black or yellow. Young birds have grey heads, sides and neck, and olive green backs, wings and tail feathers. Their beaks are blackish with a reddish tip.
Newly-hatched, Gouldian Finches are pink and featherless until about 12 days old when the beginnings of feathers start to appear and very young birds have blue, phosphorescent beads on the sides of their beaks to help their parents see them in the dark.
The Gouldian Finch is a threatened species in the wild.
These particular finches have the run of a large, tropical butterfly park in Benalmádena, Spain.
Species: E. gouldiae
Great Spotted Woodpecker
The Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos major, is a member of the woodpecker family Picidae and is found throughout Europe and northern Asia.
The Great Spotted Woodpecker is usually between 23 and 26 centimetres long and has a wingspan of between 38 and 44 centimetres. The upperparts are black with white on the sides of the face and neck. A black stripe extends from the bill and runs below the eye. On the shoulder is a large white patch and the flight feathers are barred with black and white. The underparts are dull white and the abdomen and rump are a crimson red. The bill is black and the legs are greenish grey.
Males have a crimson spot on the nape of the neck and juveniles have crimson on the top of the head. Females do not have the crimson patches or spots.
They eat insects, seeds and nuts.
Species: D. major
The Great Tit, Parus major, is a passerine bird in the tit family Paridae. It is a widespread and common species throughout Europe, the Middle East, Central and Northern Asia and parts of North Africa. It is green and yellow with a glossy black neck and head and white cheeks.
The Great Tit, the largest of the UK tit family, usually nests in holes in trees and as a result can fall fowl of woodpeckers, squirrels and even weasels.
The Great Tit generally eats insects but will eat other things if necessary, especially during the winter months.
Species: P. major
The Green Sandpiper, Tringa ochropus, is a small, chubby wader found throughout Europe. It is migratory and winters in southern Europe. It has a dark greenish-brown back and wings (almost black looking), greyish head and breast and white underparts. The back is spotted with white to varying degrees, more so in the breeding adult. The legs and short bill are both dark green.
The Green Sandpiper can be found in freshwater margins, such as marshes, lakes, gravel pits and rivers, and it likes to bob up and down when standing which makes recognition a lot easier.
It eats insects.
Species: T. ochropus
The European Green Woodpecker, Picus viridis, is a member of the woodpecker family Picidae and it is found in most parts of Europe and western Asia.
It is green on its upperparts with a paler green belly, bright yellow rump, red on the top of its head and a sort of black moustache. Males have a red centre to the moustache.
The Green Woodpecker is quite large and sturdy, growing to between 30 and 36 centimetres in length with a wingspan of between 45 and 51 centimetres.
It eats ants and actually spends most of its time feeding on the ground.
Species: P. viridis
The Greenfinch or European Greenfinch, Carduelis chloris, is a small passerine bird in the finch family Fringillidae and resident populations are found throughout Europe, north Africa and south west Asia.
You will find Greenfiches on the edge of woodland areas, in farmland hedges and in gardens.
The Greenfinch is about 15 centimetres in length, has a wingspan of between 24.5 and 27.5 centimetres, similar in size and shape to a House Sparrow. As the name implies, the Greenfinch is mainly green, with yellow in the wings and tail. The female and juveniles are a bit duller and have brown bits on the back. The bill is thick and conical.
Greenfinches mainly eat seeds but will also dine on berries.
Species: C. chloris
The Grey Heron, Ardea Cinerea, is a familiar sight along the edges of lakes and rivers, patiently waiting motionless or moving very slowly in search of fish which it catches with a very fast stabbing motion. It also eats other food like frogs and sometimes even snatches tiny ducklings.
It is easily recognised in flight by its long trailing legs. It is a large bird, standing up to 100 centimetres tall, has a wingspan of between 155 and 195 centimetres and can weigh between 1.02 and 2.08 kilos. The Grey Heron’s plumage varies with age and season and only the adults have the distinctive black cap.
Species: A. cinerea
The Grey-headed Gull, Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus, is a smallish gull, slightly larger than the Black-headed Gull at around 42 centimetres in length, with a pale grey head, grey body and red bill and legs.
The black tips to the primary wing feathers have white mirrors. The underwing is dark grey with black wingtips. The grey hood disappears in winter, leaving just dark streaks.
The Grey-headed Gull takes two years to reach maturity, with first year birds having a black terminal tail band and more dark areas in the wings.
Species: C. cirrocephalus
The Greylag Goose, Anser anser, is a large bird and the ancestor of most domesticated geese in Europe and North America.
It has quite bulky body, a thick and long neck, and a large head and bill. It has pink legs and feet and an orange or pink bill.
The Greylag Goose grows up to to 91 centimetres in length with a wingspan of up to 48 centimetres. It is basically a greyish-brown with a darker head and palish belly with black spots. Its patterned appearance is due to the pale fringes of its feathers.
It eats grass, roots, cereal leaves and, if it can get it, grain.
Species: A. anser
The Guillemot, Uria aalge, also known as the Common Murre or Common Guillemot, is a seabird in the Auk family. It is dark brown and white with a white ring round the eye and a stripe behind it.
It is a diving bird, generally diving to depths of between 30 and 60 metres, although depths of up to 180 metres have apparently been recorded.
The Guillemot spends most of its life at sea, only coming to shore to nest and breed, and huge colonies can gather on cliffs.
The Guillemot eats fish and crustaceans.
Species: U. aalge