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.
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: #http://www.aerc.eu/DOCS/Bird_taxa_of _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
Distribution and population
Anser fabalis (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) has been split into A. fabalis and A. serrirostris by Sangster and Oreel (1996) and A. fabalis and A. middendorfi by Ruokonen et al. (2008). Given that these two treatments are contradictory and undermine one another's evidence we reject both treatments and retain one polyphyletic species A. fabalis.
There is evidence to suggest that the European population (200,000-510,000 pairs, occupying 50-74% of the global breeding range) has declined by up to 30% over ten years (three generations)
, but this may reflect shifts in breeding populations
, populations in Asia are not thought to be declining
and wintering populations in Africa appear to be increasing
. Trend justification
The overall trend is decreasing, although some populations may be stable (Wetlands International 2006).EcologyBehaviour
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 2005a). 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), some populations undertaking extensive northward moult migrations (Kear 2005a), 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, loose 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 2005a). 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 2005a), 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) (pastures, arable fields, rice-paddies) (Kear 2005a), 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 2005a). 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
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 2005a). 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 2005a). Tundra breeders nest on dry hummocks and moss (Kear 2005a). Management information
An investigation carried out in one of the species' 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).Threats
The species declined in the past due to hunting (resulting in mortality, injury and disturbance) (del Hoyo et al
. 1992, Kear 2005a, 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.
Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species
The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT) - Species Account
View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
IUCN Red List evaluators
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Anser fabalis. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 27/05/2016.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 27/05/2016.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000)
Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004)
Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife
To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.