Brent Geese Like it Short
Abstract from Functional Ecology
2nd May 1996
A study of grazing by Dark-bellied brent Geese from Northern Russia wintering in Norfolk, England, has shown that they prefer areas of slat-marsh with short vegetation. The plant they liked best was one of the saltmarsh grass Puccinellia maritima and they cropped the leaves.
In areas with an average of 9% short vegetation the geese hardly ever grazed and the preferred areas had 40% short cover. Of the dozen areas which were heavily grazed six were disturbed but at the other six cyclic grazing patterns were established with intervals of between seven and 15 days.
The team from the University of East Anglia (Rowcliffe, Watkinson, Sutherland and Vickery) established that regrowth of the grazed leaf tissue would take much longer - about 50 days - so the geese were coming back while the resource they were harvesting was still depleted. The suggestion is that the younger leaf age structure provided better nutrient quality food.
It's always a shame in such studies that one cannot communicate directly with the birds - they might just say it tastes better!