This species has a moderately small population which appears to be declining over a short time period. The reasons for this decline are largely unknown. Trend calculations are complicated by interannual variation in survey coverage and reporting across its range. Small populations of other Arctic breeding geese have shown dramatic population fluctuations and this may prove to be the case for this species. The species is precautionarily listed as Vulnerable, however if it is found that recent increases are genuine and not a result of improved monitoring efforts or range shifts the species may warrant further downlisting.
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.
53-56 cm. Unmistakable red, black and white goose. Chestnut-red foreneck, breast and sides of head, bordered white. White flank-stripe and black belly. White rear belly and black tail. Juvenile generally duller than adult. Short neck and dark belly stand out in flight. Similar spp. Can be surprisingly difficult to detect amongst large flocks of other geese. Voice Repeated, jerky kik-yoik, kik-yik in flight.
Variation in survey intensity and coverage historically makes determination of trends difficult. Following a count of 60,000 in the mid 1950s, totals rarely exceeded 20,000 until intensive winter surveys in the 1990s recorded over 70,000. Two counts of just under 90,000 in the late 1990s were considered accurate (Aarvak et al. 1996, D. Hulea in litt. 2003) and an increase since the 1970s. Coordinated winter counts were then initiated in Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine since 1995, with at least one count in each winter month. Only around 30,000 were recorded in the early 2000s. It has been suggested that some birds may have been overlooked, wintering further east than expected (in eastern Ukraine or south-west Russia) where survey coverage was much less comprehensive or absent, though no new wintering sites have been found. Numbers recorded during winter surveys recovered slightly, with an average of 37,300 during the mid 2000s (S. Dereliev in litt. to Wetlands International 2005), but representing a decline of more than 50% since the late 1990s.
Counts during migration periods since 2008 have recorded larger numbers, e.g. 40,800 in spring 2008 in Kalmykia, 56,860 in autumn 2010 in Northern Kazakhstan (Rozenfeld 2011a) and c. 150,000 individuals in autumn 2012 (Rozenfeld et al. 2012). The use of such areas during migration potentially make survey efforts more effective, concentrating birds that may be widely dispersed during winter, though rapid turnover at sites during migration also presents potential problems of missing or double-counting birds. In January 2013, c. 56,000 birds were counted in Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine (N. Petkov in litt. 2013), however post-January 2013 numbers in Bulgaria and Romania have failed to reach 30,000 individuals (E. Todorov in litt. 2015). These findings suggest that during milder winters birds may now winter farther east where survey effort is less comprehensive (Cranswick et al. 2012). Recent surveys also suggest that the species may be wintering farther west, with more than 2,000 wintering in Hungary (mainly Hortobágy National Park) in winter 2014-2015 (T. Zalai in litt. 2015). The recently published European Red List of Birds suggests that the European population is declining, but only slightly (BirdLife International 2015). Whilst migration counts suggest a recent increase, further corroboration is required to confirm an accurate current estimate.
Related state of the world's birds case studies
Aarvak, T.; Oien, I. J.; Nagy, S. 1996. The Lesser White-fronted Goose monitoring programme: annual report 1996.
BirdLife International. 2015. European Red List of Birds. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.
Cranswick, P.A., Raducescu, L., Hilton G.M. and Petkov, N. 2012. International Single Species Action Plan for the Conservation of the Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis). AEWA Technical Series No. 46.
Cranswick, PA, L Raducescu, GM Hilton & N Petkov. 2010. International Single Species Action Plan for the conservation of the Red-breasted Goose Branta ruficollis, 2011-2020. . Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust/BirdLife International.
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.
Dereliev, S. 1997. Research on wintering populations of wild geese in the region of Shabla and Durankulak lakes during the period 1996-1997.
Dereliev, S. 2000. Dynamics of the numbers and distribution of the Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis) in its main wintering grounds around the Shabla and Durankulak Lakes. In: Dereliev, S.; N. Petkov (ed.), 2004-2007 Studies of the Red-breasted Goose in NE Bulgaria, BSPB, Sofia.
Hunter, J. M.; Black, J. M. 1996. International action plan for the Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis). In: Heredia, B.; Rose, L.; Painter, M. (ed.), Globally threatened birds in Europe: action plans, pp. 79-98. Council of Europe, and BirdLife International, Strasbourg.
Hunter, J. M.; Black, J. M.; Rusev, I.; Michev, T.; Munteanu, D. 1999. Red-breasted Goose Branta ruficollis. In: Madsen, J.; Cracknell, G.; Fox, T. (ed.), Goose populations of the Western Palearctic: a review of status and distribution, pp. 328-340. Wetlands International/National Environmental Research Institute, Ronde, Denmark.
IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (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.
Madge, S. and Burn, H. 1988. Wildfowl. Christopher Helm, London.
Petkov, N., G. Popgeorgiev & S. Gigov. 2012. Evidence of landscape scale impact of windfarm development in Coastal Dobrudga on the distribution of foraging flocks of Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis) and the "Ponto-Anatolian" flyway population of Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons). Abstract and poster presented at !4th WI/IUCN GSG Meeting, Stakjiar, Norway..
Pigniczki, C. 2008. Observation of an unusually large flock of Red-breasted Geese (Branta ruficollis) on the sodic pens of Kiskunság. Aquila 114-115: 173.
Prop, J., Quinn J. L. 2003. Colony choice in a patchy arctic environment: density-dependent reproductive sucess in red-breasted geese Branta ruficollis. Oikos 102: 571-580.
Quinn, J. L.; Prop, J.; Kokorev, Y. 1996. The ecology of Red-breasted Geese in summer: report on a preliminary expedition to the Taimyr Peninsula in 1995.
Raduescu, L. 2013. Conservation efforts for Red-breasted Goose in Romania. TWSG News - Bulletin of the Wetlands International - IUCN SSC Threatened Waterfowl Specialist Group 16: 7.
Rozenfeld S. 2009. Number and distribution of migrant RBG and LWFG in Russia and Kazakhstan, 2006-2009. Strategy of the sustainable use of waterfowl: perspectives and preliminary experience. Abstracts of Goose Specialist Group, 12th meeting, Holviken, Sweden. 9-13 Oct 2009: 35.
Rozenfeld S. 2011. The number of Red-Breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis) and Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus) on the migration routes in 2010. Goose Bulletin. Issue 12. Goose Specialist Group of Wetlands International and IUCN.
Rozenfeld S. B., Volkov S. V. 2001. Food ecology of the Red-brested Goose in Western Taimyr. Bulletin of Moscow Society of Naturalists Biological series. Volume 106, Part 3.
Rozenfeld, S. 2011. Regulation of Spring and Autumn Hunting on Waterbirds in the Kumo-Manych Depression, Russian Federation, March 2010-February 2011. AEWA Lesser White-fronted Goose International Working Group Report Series No. 2. Bonn, Germany.
Rozenfeld, S., Timoshenko, A. and Vilkov, V. 2012. The results of goose counts on the North Kazakhstan stopover site in autumn 2012. Casarca 15(2): 164-176.
Rusev, I. T.; Andriuschenko, Y. A.; Belinskiy, A. V.; Grinchenko, A. B.; Zhmud, M. E.; Kinda, V. V.; Korziukov, A. I.; Moskalenko, Y. A.; Petrovich, Z. I.; Popenko, V. M.; Yaremchenko, O. A. 2008. Current status of Red-breasted Goose in Azov-Black Sea region of Ukraine. Casarca 11(1): 49-60.
Wetlands International. 2015. Waterbird Population Estimates. Available at: wpe.wetlands.org. (Accessed: 21/09/2015).
Zöckler, C. and Lysenko, I. 2000. Water birds on the edge. First circumpolar assessment of climate change impact on Arctic breeding water birds. WCMC, Cambridge, U.K.
Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Capper, D., Derhé, M., Harding, M., Peet, N., Pilgrim, J., Pople, R. & Ashpole, J
Bukreev, S., Dereliev, S., Hulea, D., Mikityuk, A., Petkov, N., Zöckler, C., Rozenfeld, S., Simeonov, Cranswick, P., Todorov, E., Nagy, S., Choudhury, U., Mooij, J. & Zalai, T.
IUCN Red List evaluators
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Branta ruficollis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/05/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/05/2016.
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
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Additional resources for this species
|Current IUCN Red List category||Vulnerable|
|Family||Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, Swans)|
|Species name author||(Pallas, 1769)|
|Population size||mature individuals|
|Distribution size (breeding/resident)||44,200 km2|
|Links to further information|
- Additional Information on this species|
- 2015 European Red List assessment