Early on the morning of Nov. 17, birders from all over the state were in Shelby County, braving freezing temperatures for a chance to get a glimpse of the rare pink-footed goose.

The birders, members of various ornithological organizations and clubs in Louisville and Lexington, as well as occasional hobbyists, traveled from a Freedoms Way overpass to Lake Shelby to Clear Creek Park photograph the illusive fowl.

The hunt began after Laurie Ault spotted the bird in Lake Shelby and took a picture with her phone.

“I put it on Facebook and before I could even say what it was, people from all over the state were commenting,” the armature birder stated. “If you’ve ever scene the Jack Black movie ‘The Big Year,’ this is the bird they were all trying to locate.”

According to Katey Buster of the Central Kentucky Audubon Society, this type of goose spends its winters in Greenland and summers in Britain. According to Buster, the pink-footed goose has been spotted in the United States, but never past Pennsylvania.

The American Birding Association, an organization that covers North America, stated on it’s website that the sighting has been categorized as a Code 5. This code, according to the site, is for “Species that are recorded five or fewer times in the ABA Area, or fewer than three records in the past 30 years.” A code six would indicate that a species is likely extinct.”

The pink-footed goose has been spending his time in Kentucky with his Canadian cousins — likely due to the fact that it is in need of a surrogate flock in the absence of its own. The Canada geese don’t seem to mind, as they have been seen flying place to place with it among their ranks.

Ault said she fears that hunters might shoot the bird and that is why she wants to get its photo and information out to the public. This could help a hunter intending to shoot Canada geese know to be on the lookout for a goose with a shorter neck, pink feet, and partially pink beak that might be hiding among the hunter[s prey. 

No one can say how the pink-footed goose ended up in the Bluegrass state or how long it will be here. For the time being, the visitor from Greenland seems to be satisfied traveling with a flock of Canada geese.