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Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons

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). The population trend is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely 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.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _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.

Trend justification
The overall population trend is uncertain, as some populations are decreasing, while others are stable, increasing or have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006). This species has undergone a large and statistically significant increase over the last 40 years in North America (5500% increase over 40 years, equating to a 173% increase per decade; data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007) Note, however, that these surveys cover less than 50% of the species's range in North America.

Behaviour This species is fully migratory (del Hoyo et al. 1992), travelling in stages via several stop-over sites between separate breeding and wintering grounds (Madge and Burn 1988). The species breeds from late-May or early-June in single pairs or loose groups (del Hoyo et al. 1992), with moulting non-breeders and failed breeders gathering on areas of open water separate from the major breeding congregations (Kear 2005a). After breeding the species gathers in small flocks (less than 30 individuals) (Scott and Rose 1996) to undergo a post-breeding moult period (Madge and Burn 1988) near the breeding grounds where it becomes flightless for c.25 days (Scott and Rose 1996). After this moulting period flocks gather to migrate south to winter quarters, leaving the breeding areas from late-August through September and arriving late in the autumn (Madge and Burn 1988). Outside of the breeding season the species is highly gregarious (Madge and Burn 1988) (large flocks of up to 30,000 individuals are recorded in Europe) although it is more commonly observed in small loose groups due to the patchiness of its favoured habitat (Kear 2005a). The species usually forages within 20 km of rooting sites (Kear 2005a), although the optimum distance for foraging areas may be less than this (less than 4 km in Scotland, UK) (Vickery and Gill 1999). Habitat Breeding The species breeds in open (del Hoyo et al. 1992), low-lying, shrubby tundra (Snow and Perrins 1998) on the coast and inland (del Hoyo et al. 1992), in close proximity to marshes, lakes, pools, rivers (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Snow and Perrins 1998), and willow- and shrub-lined ponds and streams (Johnsgard 1978). It requires dry slopes, banks, mounds, hummocks or patches of sand or clay for nesting sites, especially those commanding good views of the surrounding area (Snow and Perrins 1998). Non-breeding The species winters in open country on steppe and agricultural land (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. improved grassland, stubble fields (Madge and Burn 1988) and wet meadows (Johnsgard 1978)), or in brackish (Kear 2005a) and freshwater marshy habitats (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (such as upland bogs (Madge and Burn 1988), peatlands (Scott and Rose 1996) and floodlands (Kear 2005a)). It may also roost on tidal marshes, in sheltered bays or in estuaries and frequents inland lakes and reservoirs in North America (Kear 2005a). Diet The species is herbivorous, its diet consisting of the roots, leaves, stems, seeds and fruits of terrestrial plants such as herbs, grasses and sedges (del Hoyo et al. 1992), as well as agricultural grain (e.g. corn, oats (del Hoyo et al. 1992), wheat, rice and barley (Johnsgard 1978)), potatoes and sprouting cereals (especially in the winter) (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Breeding site The nest is a shallow construction of plant matter on the ground (del Hoyo et al. 1992) amongst vegetation such as grass or dwarf scrub heath, often on raised hummocks or slopes to reduce the risk of flooding and provide a vantage point of the surrounding area (Kear 2005a). Management information An investigation carried out in one of the species's wintering areas (UK) found that it was most likely to forage on grasslands managed with a livestock (cattle) grazing regime, with a sward height of 13-20 cm, at a distance of less than 9 km away from roosting sites (the optimum distance was 4 km away) (Vickery and Gill 1999). Fertilising the grassland with nitrogen in the autumn (mid-October) at a rate of 125 kg N ha1 was also found to increase the overall species use of the habitat by 42 % compared with unfertilised areas (Vickery and Gill 1999).

The species is threatened by intense hunting pressure (del Hoyo et al. 1992) resulting in mortality (Kear 2005a, Nikolaeva et al. 2006) and disturbance at staging (Nikolaeva et al. 2006) and moulting sites (Glahder and Walsh 2006). It is also susceptible to poisoning by pesticides used on agricultural land (Kwon et al. 2004). Populations in Greenland are threatened by human disturbance at moulting sites from tourists in cruise liners (once displaced from a site birds are unlikely to find unoccupied replacement sites) (Glahder and Walsh 2006), and the species is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the vius (Melville and Shortridge 2006). Climatic changes are likely to cause range contractions in this species's already highly restricted breeding range (Kear 2005a), and are already causing other species (e.g. Canada Geese Branta canadensis) to move northward, increasing competition for resources (Kear 2005a, Fox et al. 2006). Oil exploration in the tundra habitat poses a threat to the species's breeding (Kear 2005a) and moulting sites (Glahder and Walsh 2006) by increasing the possibility of oil spills and chronic oil pollution (Grishanov 2006, Nikolaeva et al. 2006), by direct habitat destruction (influencing breeding site selection and reducing reproductive success) (Kear 2005a) and through human disturbance (Glahder and Walsh 2006). Wetland habitat degradation due to drainage, peat-extraction and changing management practices (decreased grazing and mowing in meadows leading to scrub over-growth) is also a problem in areas of Russia (Grishanov 2006). Utilisation The species is sustainably hunted for sport in Denmark (Bregnballe et al. 2006).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Bregnballe, T., Noer, H., Christensen, T.K., Clausen, P., Asferg, T., Fox, A.D. and Delany, S. 2006. Sustainable hunting of migratory waterbirds: the Danish approach. In: G. Boere, C. Galbraith, and D. Stroud (eds), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 854-860. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Fox, A. D.; Walsh, A. J.; Norriss, D. W.; Wilson, H. J.; Stroud, D. A.; Francis, I. 2006. Twenty-five years of population monitoring - the rise and fall of the Greenland White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons flavirostris. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 637-639. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Glahder, C.M. and Walsh, A.J. 2006. Experimental disturbance of moulting Greenland White-fronted Geese Anser albifrons flavirostris. In: G. Boere, C. Galbraith and D. Stroud (eds), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 640. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, U.K.

Grishanov, D. 2006. Conservation problems of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds and their habitats in the Kaliningrad region of Russia. In: G. Boere, C. Galbraith and D Stroud (eds), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 356. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, U.K.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Johnsgard, P.A. 1978. Ducks, geese and swans of the World. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London.

Kear, J. 2005. Ducks, geese and swans volume 1: general chapters; species accounts (Anhima to Salvadorina). Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Kwon, Y.K., Wee, S.H. and Kim, J.H. 2004. Pesticide Poisoning Events in Wild Birds in Korea from 1998 to 2002. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 40(4): 737-740.

Madge, S. and Burn, H. 1988. Wildfowl. Christopher Helm, London.

Melville, D. S.; Shortridge, K. F. 2006. Migratory waterbirds and avian influenza in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway with particular reference to the 2003-2004 H5N1 outbreak. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 432-438. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Nikolaeva, N.G., Spiridonov, V.A. and Krasnov, Y.V. 2006. Existing and proposed marine protected areas and their relevance for seabird conservation: a case study in the Barents Sea region. In: G. Boere, C. Galbraith and D. Stroud (eds), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 743-749. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Scott, D. A.; Rose, P. M. 1996. Atlas of Anatidae populations in Africa and western Eurasia. Wetlands International, Wageningen, Netherlands.

Snow, D.W. and Perrins, C.M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Vickery, J. A.; Gill, J. A. 1999. Managing grassland for wild geese in Britain: a review. Biological Conservation 89: 93-106.

Further web sources of information
Detailed regional assessment and species account from the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International, 2015)

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

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L. & Ashpole, J

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Anser albifrons. Downloaded from on 26/11/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/11/2015.

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.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, Swans)
Species name author (Scopoli, 1769)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Unknown
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 1,590,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment