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Pilgrim geese information

About Pilgrim geese


Pilgrim geese are an auto-sexing breed of goose.


What is auto-sexing?


The sex of both goslings and mature Pilgrim geese can be distinguished by the colour. Mature

males are white and females grey. Day-old males are silver-yellow with orange coloured bills;

the females are olive-grey with darker bills. By four weeks the males down and feathers are

clearly growing white and in the female are growing grey. Adult males are mostly white, usually

with grey rumps (which are covered by the wings) and traces of silver-grey on the flanks or wings.

Mature females are light grey with varying amounts of white in their

faces, this extends with age. Bills and legs in mature birds are orange in both sexes, while the eyes

are blue in ganders and dark brown in geese.




The feather colour dilution gene is carried on the sex chromosome, The male carries two genes and

the female only one. So with one dilution gene the female is a soft grey and the male, with two, is

almost completely white.

Only a pure bred line of Pilgrim geese will give auto-sexing offspring and even these need

rigorous selection. It is difficult to get 100% pure breeding, some females tend towards West

of England markings with a few white primaries, white on the breast and too much white in young

birds on the neck, occasionally white or West of England coloured females can be found.




The Pilgrim goose has only relatively recently been named and standardised as a breed. Oscar Grow an authority on waterfowl in the 1900s developed the breed in Iowa and it was named by his wife in memory of their relocation - or pilgrimage - to Missouri during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The breed “Pilgrim” was first documented by the name in 1935 and admitted into the American Poultry Association's Standard of Perfection in 1939.


Looking into the origins of this goose however there are many references to auto-sexing geese in western England, Normandy, France and in colonial America, though they were never referred to by name. Some consider the Pilgrim is related to the West of England goose, another auto-sexing breed which could have been taken to America by early colonists. Whether this is correct or not, domesticated from the Greylag, the auto sexing goose is of European origin.


Following extensive referencing it has been concluded that the auto-sexing goose was the common farmyard goose of early Britain, an ancient breed, hardy and self-sufficient, that had been selected for centuries for white ganders and grey coloured females. Being the common goose, taken for granted and never named, they became overtaken in popularity by new, imported breeds such as Toulouse and Embden. They were almost lost. However in the less developed areas of Britain, such as the south west of England, a few small flocks did survive.


Rare Breeds Survival Trust UK:


Pilgrims are now on the UK Poultry Breeds at risk list that was updated in February 2012.  Considered a UK native breed it is critically rare in Britain and in America.






The Pilgrim goose is known for being calm and personable, quiet and docile. They are good foragers and excellent natural parents. Because they are noted for being sweet-tempered, this trait should be considered when retaining birds for reproduction.


Why keep Pilgrim geese:


What you need to keep Pilgrim geese?:




One pair went to Angela and Martin in Devon who say "We just wanted you to know that we think the geese are great! They have settled in fantastically well and are really friendly.  Their wendy house works really well (we've made it more fox proof with a good door bolt and put wire in place of the plastic windows. We've also put a rubber stable mat on the floor under straw (which as you suggested is much better than shavings in this case). They are enjoying walks around our paddocks beyond their pen and have had a few baths. We couldn't be more pleased so thank you so much". 


Another pair went to Clare "as soon as they are out of their incredibly large fenced area, they are straight down to the house and trying to join us in the kitchen. On one particularly warm day, when the French windows were open, I found them both pecking around the breakfast table. My 45kg Ridgeback dog is terrified, my lab is reluctantly accepting, and I am just loving their company".



There is a newly hatched forum for Pilgrim geese that can be used now for exchange of information and website





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