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Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus

This species is listed as Vulnerable because it has suffered a rapid population reduction in its key breeding population in Russia, and equivalent declines are predicted to continue. The Fennoscandian population has undergone a severe historical decline, and has not yet recovered.

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.

53-66 cm. Small, grey-brown goose. White patch at base of pink bill. Black belly patches. Yellow eye-ring at close range. Similar spp. White-fronted Goose A. albifrons larger, longer necked with bigger bill and less steeply sloping forehead. Adult less dark and has smaller white blaze on face and lack bright yellow eye-ring. Juvenile lacks pale eye-ring. Difficult to distinguish in flight except by longer neck and bill and relatively shorter wings. Voice Fast bouncing dyee yik. Hints Search flocks of other geese, particularly A. albifrons. Walks faster than A. albifrons and is consequently often found near the front of feeding flocks.

Distribution and population
Four main subpopulations of Anser erythropus can be recognised: the Fennoscandian population which breeds in the Nordic countries (Norway 35-45 pairs, Finland 0-5 pairs, Sweden five pairs [BirdLife International 2004]) and the Kola Peninsula in Russia; the west Asian main population which breeds in northern Russian tundra to the west of the Taimyr Peninsula, including  to the west and east of Pechora and Western Siberia (Yamal and Gydan peninsulas); and the Eastern population which breeds in the southern Taimyr and Putorana Plateau and areas north of Eastern Siberia and Chukotka. Eastern breeders winter in central China and Mongolia, and Fennoscandian and west Asian breeders winter around the Black and Caspian Seas, in Azerbaijan, the Evros Delta between Greece and Turkey (Lorentsen et al. 1998), Iraq and possibly Iran. Small numbers occur on passage or in winter in Hungary, Germany (Morozov and Syroechkovski 2005), Slovakia, Romania (Aarvak et al. 1997; Munteanu et al. 1991) Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Bulgaria (Petkov et al. 1999). A small wintering population is also now established in The Netherlands, which originates from a reintroduced breeding population in Sweden. There are important staging areas in Kazakhstan (Tolvanen et al. 1999), Estonia (Tolvanen et al. 1999), Lithuania and Poland. The most recent total population estimate is 28,000-33,000 individuals, which compares with previous published global estimates of 25,000 to 30,000 individuals (Lorentsen et al. 1999) and 22,000 to 27,000 (Delany & Scott 2002). This includes 8,000-13,000 individuals in autumn in its Western Palearctic range (Jones et al. 2008) and 20,000 individuals from the East Asian Flyway (Delany et al. 2008, Delany and Scott 2006) (20,000 recorded in 1997 [Li and Mundkur 2004]; but later less than 17,000 (Morozov and Syroechkovski 2005); 16,937 counted in Lower Yangtze Valley in 2004 (Barter et al. 2004), and 16,600 counted in East Dongting Lake nature reserve in 2004 [Barter 2005]). The Russian population has declined from a former estimate of 30,000-50,000 individuals (Morozov 1995). The Fennoscandian population has declined from more than 10,000 birds in the early 20th century.

Population justification
There is an estimated population of 8,000-11,000 autumn individuals in the western Palearctic plus about 20,000 wintering individuals from the east Asian flyway (from 11,800-16,800 counted in 1999, 16,600 in 2003, and 16,937 counted in the Lower Yangtze Valley in 2004). This gives a global estimate of 28,000-33,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 18,000-22,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
This species' population is suspected to have decreased rapidly, owing to levels of hunting on the staging and wintering grounds, and habitat deterioration (largely as a result of land cultivation). The decrease in numbers has been accompanied by fragmentation of the breeding range and is continuing to affect all populations. Modelling indicates that 28% of the habitat for this species could be lost by 2070 (Zöckler and Lysenko 2000).

Behaviour This species is fully migratory, and information about its migration routes has only recently come to light as a result of satellite telemetry studies (Kear 2005a). The species departs from its breeding grounds in northern Scandinavia and Arctic Russia in late August to early September. Populations from Fennoscandia and west Asia follow several routes: either south (through Hungary), or east and then south, through the Russian Taimyr Peninsula in northern Siberia, northern Kazakhstan and finally the Black Sea (Snow and Perrins 1998, øien et al. 2005), to reach wintering grounds in south-east Europe (the Hungarian plain to the Black Sea) and the Near East (around the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf) (Snow and Perrins 1998, Alerstam 1990). East Asian populations winter in eastern China (del Hoyo et al 1992) and the Korean peninsula (Madsen 1996). The return passage to the breeding grounds begins in February, with the species arriving from early May (Snow and Perrins 1998) to late June (Madsen 1996). In Siberia non-breeding birds undertake a moult-migration to higher altitudes or to areas north of the breeding range (Madsen 1996). Evidence indicates that this species is not a colonial breeder (Johnsgard 1978), but nests in pairs on isolated territories (Madge and Burn 1988). The species is gregarious outside the breeding season however (Madge and Burn 1988). Habitat Breeding This species breeds in low-lying bogs, scrub-covered tundra and taiga-forest edges close to wetlands, up to 700 m above sea level (Kear 2005a). It can also be found on the slopes by lower parts of mountain streams, on mountain foothills, mountain lakes and on alpine precipices, often in thawing boggy areas or on stonefields (Johnsgard 1978; Cramp and Simmons 1977). Adults of this species undergo a post-breeding flightless summer moult whilst still in their breeding range (in Siberia and Scandinavia adults migrate to areas north of the breeding range or to higher altitudes to exploit large open water fringed with sedge (Carex), or river valleys with long grass and scrub to escape predation) (Kear 2005a). Non-breeding During winter and on migration this species frequents open short grassland in the steppe and semi-arid zones, particularly in sodic (e.g. seashore) pastures, arable farmland, pastures and meadows (Madsen 1996; Kear 2005a; Cramp and Simmons 1977). Winter roosting colonies are also formed on large lakes and rivers (Madge and Burn 1988; Cramp and Simmons 1977) , or in reedbeds and rushes (Cramp and Simmons 1977). Diet This species is herbivorous, feeding on grasses, roots, stems, leaves, fruits and the green parts of aquatic and terrestrial plants along lake-shores, rivers and marshes (Kear 2005a). During the winter the species supplements its diet with winter agricultural grains (Kear 2005a). Breeding site Birds of this species often nest on snow-free patches available early in the breeding season (such as rocky outcrops or prominent hummocks) hidden amongst vegetation (grass, dwarf shrub heathland) or in boggy hollows (Madsen 1996; Kear 2005a), usually in close proximity to open water or marshy areas (Kear 2005a).

Breeding Disturbance on breeding grounds (e.g. from increasing tourism and angling) causes much disruption to nesting birds (Madsen 1996). Illegal spring hunting and round-ups of moulting birds are taking place on the Russian breeding grounds (Jones in press) and illegal shooting continues in Norway T. Aarvak pers. comm. 2007). In the Western Palearctic at least 20-30% of the population are shot each year (Mooij 2010) often accidentally during hunting of other species. Habitat deterioration, as a result of land cultivation and increased water-levels in the Caspian Sea, is a further threat (Madsen 1996), as is habitat loss through the creation of reservoirs for hydroelectric power in Scandinavia (Madsen 1996). The species may also be threatened by nest predation from the Red Fox Vulpes vulpes (Madsen 1996). Climate change and associated habitat shifts are expected to impact negatively on this species and others dependent on tundra habitat for breeding. Modelling indicates that 28% of the habitat for this species could be lost by 2070 (Zöckler and Lysenko 2000). Non-breeding High mortality in autumn and winter is caused by illegal hunting, and accidental shooting on the staging and wintering grounds is the most important threat (Madsen 1996; Aarvak et al.1997; Lorentsen et al. 1998; Kear 2005a; Morozov 2006; Jones (in press). Disturbance of roosting and feeding birds by hunters is a potentially significant limiting factor on survival and breeding output (Ebbinge and Spaans 1995; ä 2000; N. Petkov in litt. 2007). The wintering population at Dongting Lake, China, is threatened by the Three Gorges Dam (Iwabuchi 1998). In the Kaliningrad region of Russia, important migratory stop-over points on the Baltic Sea coastline are being degraded through petroleum pollution, wetland drainage for agriculture, changes in wetland management leading to scrub and reed overgrowth, peat extraction, and the burning and mowing of reed beds (Grishanov 2006).

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix I and II. It is protected in key range states except Azerbaijan and China. Satellite telemetry studies have improved knowledge of its ecology and the key threats (Aarvak et al.1997; Tolvanen et al. 1999). A reintroduction programme in Sweden recently ended. Public awareness materials have been produced (Kostadinova et al. 1999). An European Action Plan was published in 1996 (Madsen 1996) and an updated International Single Species Action Plan for the western Palearctic population was published in 2008 (Jones et al. 2008). Several captive breeding populations exist (AEWA).

Conservation Actions Proposed

Reduce hunting pressure in key wintering and staging areas. Locate, monitor and protect key areas. Continue satellite tracking and other research. Prevent habitat loss and manage habitats in staging and wintering areas. Promote international and national legal protection and develop captive breeding programmes. Promote public awareness.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

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)

Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Fennoscandian Lesser White-fronted Goose Conservation Project

International Action Plan

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

Morozov, V., Oien, I., Petkov, N. & Zöckler, C.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Anser erythropus. Downloaded from on 29/11/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 29/11/2015.

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.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, Swans)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1758)
Population size 18000-22000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 1,100,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment