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Greylag Goose Anser anser
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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 appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable 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.

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c.1,000,000-1,100,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while national population sizes have been estimated at <c.100 breeding pairs and <c.50 wintering individuals in China and <c.10,000 breeding pairs in Russia (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
The overall population trend is increasing, although some populations may be stable and others have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006).

Behaviour This species is fully migratory although some populations in temperate regions are only sedentary (del Hoyo et al. 1992) or locally dispersive (Scott and Rose 1996), occasionally making irregular movements in very icy winters (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species breeds from May or April in loose colonies (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kear 2005a), after which flocks gather to undertake moult migrations to favoured areas (with good feeding opportunities and access to safe roosting sites) (Kear 2005a) to undergo a flightless moulting period lasting c.1 month (Scott and Rose 1996). The species is highly gregarious (Madge and Burn 1988, Kear 2005a) outside of the breeding season (Madge and Burn 1988), with large concentrations forming during the post-breeding moult and before the autumn migration (e.g. flocks of up to 25,000 individuals) (Scott and Rose 1996). The species feeds diurnally, especially during the morning and evening, although non-breeding birds may also feed at night (Kear 2005a). It roosts at night and during the middle of the day on open water (Flint et al. 1984), and may fly to feeding areas more than 10 km away from roosting sites (Kear 2005a) (optimal distance 2-5 km away) (Vickery and Gill 1999). Habitat Breeding During the breeding season the species inhabits wetlands surrounded by fringing vegetation in open grassland (del Hoyo et al. 1992), sedge or heather moorland (Johnsgard 1978), arctic tundra, steppe or semi-desert from sea-level up to 2,300 m (Snow and Perrins 1998). It nests near streams, saltmarshes (Kear 2005a), river flood-plains, reedy marshes, grassy bogs, damp meadows, reed-lined freshwater lakes and estuaries (Johnsgard 1978) close to potential feeding sites such as meadows, grasslands, stubble fields and newly sown cereal fields (Kear 2005a). It requires isolated islands (Kear 2005a) in lakes (Johnsgard 1978) or on along the coast (Kear 2005a) out of reach of land predators for nesting (Kear 2005a). In the autumn (before migration) the species also frequents agricultural land (e.g. sugar-beet, maize and cereal fields) (Kear 2005a). Non-breeding In the winter the species inhabits lowland farmland in open country (Madge and Burn 1988, del Hoyo et al. 1992), swamps (del Hoyo et al. 1992), lakes (Madge and Burn 1988, del Hoyo et al. 1992), reservoirs (Madge and Burn 1988), coastal lagoons (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and estuaries (Madge and Burn 1988). Diet The species is herbivorous, its diet consisting of grass (del Hoyo et al. 1992), the roots, shoots, leaves, stems, seedheads and fruits of other herbaceous marsh vegetation (Johnsgard 1978, del Hoyo et al. 1992), aquatic plants (Johnsgard 1978), and agricultural grain and potatoes (especially in the winter) (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Breeding site The nest is a shallow construction of plant matter (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Snow and Perrins 1998) placed among reedbeds, on the ground (del Hoyo et al. 1992), in or at the base of trees, under bushes or in sheltered hollows on isolated wooded islands on lakes or along coasts (Johnsgard 1978, Kear 2005a), as well as on rafts of vegetation in rivers (Snow and Perrins 1998). Although the species is only semi-colonial, nests may be concentrated within a small area (e.g. placed 11 m apart on small islands) (Johnsgard 1978). Management information On the Vejlerne nature reserve, Denmark, it was found that reedbeds left unharvested for 5-13 years supported the highest nesting densities of this species (Nyeland Kristiansen 1998). Low nesting densities were found in reedbeds in the first four years after reed cutting, and no nests were found in reedbeds cut in the year of study (shoot density may have been too low to provide adequate cover) or in reedbeds left uncut for sixteen years (reed stems may have been too dense) (Nyeland Kristiansen 1998).

This species is threatened by considerable hunting pressures across much of its range (Madge and Burn 1988, del Hoyo et al. 1992) and is susceptible to poisoning from lead shot ingestion (Mateo et al. 1998). It is also persecuted by farmers as it can cause considerable crop damage (Madge and Burn 1988, del Hoyo et al. 1992). The destruction and degradation of wetland habitats due to drainage (Madge and Burn 1988, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Grishanov 2006), conversion to agriculture (Madge and Burn 1988, del Hoyo et al. 1992), petroleum pollution, peat-extraction, changing wetland management practices (e.g. decreased grazing and mowing in meadows leading to scrub over-growth) and the burning and mowing of reeds is also a threat, especially in breeding areas (Grishanov 2006). The species is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the virus (Melville and Shortridge 2006).

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

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.

Flint, V. E.; Boehme, R. L.; Kostin, Y. V.; Kuznetsov, A. A. 1984. A field guide to birds of the USSR. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

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

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.

Kristiansen, J. N. 1998. Nest site preference by Greylag Geese Anser anser in reedbeds of different harvest age. Bird Study 45: 337-343.

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

Mateo, R.; Belliure, J.; Dolz, J. C.; Aguilar-Serrano, J. M.; Guitart, R. . 1998. High prevalences of lead poisoning in wintering waterfowl in Spain. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 35: 342-347.

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.

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

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

Vahatalo, A. V.; Rainio, K.; Lehikoinen, A.; Lehikoinen, E. 2004. Spring arrival of birds depends on the North Atlantic Oscillation. Journal of Avian Biology 35: 210-216.

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 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

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

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

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Anser anser. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016.

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.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Greylag goose (Anser anser) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, Swans)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1758)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Increasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 5,460,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment