Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The global population is estimated at 680,000-800,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2015). The European population is estimated at 134,000-144,000 pairs, which equates to 268,000-288,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).
The overall trend is decreasing, although the west and central Siberian/north-east and south-west European population is reported to be stable (BirdLife International 2015, Wetlands International 2015).
Behaviour This species is strongly migratory and travels between breeding grounds in the high Arctic to wintering grounds in the temperate and subtropical zones (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Populations that breed in the taiga nest in early May, with those breeding in the tundra nesting one month later in early June (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kear 2005). The species breeds in solitary pairs, usually with nests well-dispersed (Snow and Perrins 1998) (although it will also nest in loose groups [del Hoyo et al. 1992]). After breeding the species undergoes a moulting period when it is flightless for c.1 month between July and August (Scott and Rose 1996), with some populations undertaking extensive northward moult migrations (Kear 2005), and most congregating into large moulting flocks near open water (Scott and Rose 1996). The species departs from its breeding grounds after this post-breeding moulting period in early September, arriving in the winter quarters from late September through October (Madge and Burn 1988). It remains gregarious throughout the winter (Madge and Burn 1988) (although it occurs in smaller, looser flocks than many other goose species [Snow and Perrins 1998]) and roosts close to feeding areas (Madge and Burn 1988) in mixed-species flocks on lakes, rivers and flooded lands (Kear 2005). Habitat Breeding The species breeds near lakes, pools, rivers and streams in high Arctic tundra or the taiga forest zone (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Taiga nesting populations show a preference for scrubby birch Betula spp. forest (Madge and Burn 1988) and dense spruce forest with bogs or mires (Madge and Burn 1988), whereas tundra-based populations nest on damp tundra of moss, grass, sedge or scrub (Johnsgard 1978) near river flood-plains, but above flood levels (Madge and Burn 1988, Kear 2005), on Arctic islands and in Arctic coastal regions (Madge and Burn 1988). Non-breeding During the winter and on passage the species inhabits marshes, agricultural land (del Hoyo et al. 1992), e.g. pastures, arable fields and rice-paddies (Kear 2005), damp steppe grassland (Madge and Burn 1988), flood-lands, rivers and coastal shallows (Snow and Perrins 1998) in open country (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It also roosts on lakes, rivers and flood-lands in Europe during this season (Kear 2005). Diet The species is herbivorous (del Hoyo et al. 1992), its diet consisting of herbs, grasses, sedges (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and mosses (Johnsgard 1978), complemented during the breeding season by berries (e.g. from Empetrum or Vaccinium spp.) (del Hoyo et al. 1992). During the winter it feeds predominantly on agricultural land taking grain, beans, potatoes (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and sprouting winter cereal crops (Kear 2005). Breeding site The species builds a nest of vegetation in a shallow scrape on the ground (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Taiga breeders nest in bogs or mires within forested regions, placing nests within 400 m of open mire and within 2 km of open water, usually 50-100 cm above bog surfaces on hummocks that are safe from flooding (Kear 2005). Tundra breeders nest on dry hummocks and moss (Kear 2005). Management information An investigation carried out in one of the species's wintering areas (UK) found that it was most likely to forage on improved grassland or grasslands grazed by cattle that were a minimum of 5 ha in area, had an optimum sward height of c.20 cm and were at a distance of less than 9 km away from roosting sites (Vickery and Gill 1999).
The species declined in the past due to hunting (resulting in mortality, injury and disturbance) (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kear 2005, Nikolaeva et al. 2006) and habitat loss (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Habitat degradation due to oil pollution (Grishanov 2006, Nikolaeva et al. 2006), drainage, peat-extraction, changing management practices (decreased grazing and mowing in meadows leading to scrub over-growth) and forest clearance is a threat to breeding areas in Russia (Grishanov 2006), Norway and Sweden (Madge and Burn 1988). The species also suffers from human persecution (Madge and Burn 1988) and is susceptible to poisoning by pesticides used on agricultural land (Kwon et al. 2004). Climate change poses a potential threat longer term on breeding grounds, most likely particularly to tundra populations (Carboneras and Kirwan 2014).
Conservation Actions Underway
EU Directives Annex II. CMS Appendix II. Bern Convention Appendix III. The species is listed on the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement. The following information refers to the species's European range only: Compensatory payments are paid to farmers in the Netherlands; as a result research has been undertaken focusing on minimizing damage by altering land use in agricultural areas and restoring original habitats for wintering geese (Carboneras and Kirwan 2014). In many countries, counts of the species and monitoring are carried out each year. International protection of key wetland habitats for the species is provided by Special Protection Areas, Ramsar and the Bern Convention (Hearn 2004).
Conservation Actions Proposed
The following information refers to the species's European range only: Better quality and more widespread monitoring is needed for this species, particularly to assess the impact of hunting. A Flyway Management Plan is essential for international co-ordination of monitoring (Hearn 2004). More key sites should be protected and management and conservation needs should be integrated. Stricter regulation on hunting and persecution should be implemented.
Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ashpole, J, Malpas, L., Symes, A., Ekstrom, J.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Anser fabalis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/04/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/04/2023.