Taiga Bean Goose
Anser fabalis fabalis
The Taiga Bean Goose breeds in Scandinavia and western Russia and winters mainly in southern Sweden, Denmark and, to a lesser extent, in northern Germany and Poland. Small numbers also winter in western Denmark, the Netherlands and Britain.
In Britain, Taiga Bean Geese are concentrated predominately in two areas: the Slamannan Plateau, in Falkirk, Scotland, and the Yare Marshes in Norfolk, England.
Taiga Bean Goose is a current conservation priority as the population has declined significantly in the past 10-20 years. An AEWA Species Action plan was drafted in 2015.
- Status summary
- Life history
- Latest results
- Previous results
- Key references & links
Global status (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species)
African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA)
European status (European Red List of Birds)
The Birds Directive (European Commission)
UK status (Birds of Conservation Concern)
UK quarry species (Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981)
Least Concern (Europe and EU27)*
Annex II (Part A)*
* assessed at species level Anser fabalis
† Bean Goose Anser fabalis is listed as ‘Least Concern’ by IUCN/BirdLife International. The Red List assessment of sub-species is not routinely undertaken. However, an assessment of Taiga Bean Goose Anser fabalis fabalis using IUCN criteria was undertaken as part of the UK’s Birds of Conservation Concern 3; the sub-species was evaluated as ‘Vulnerable’.
Flyway population size (CSR 6; Wetlands International 2015)
GB estimate (Musgrove et al. 2011)
GB trend (GSMP survey)
Breeding success (GSMP survey)
50,000 – 70,000 individuals
Occur in too few numbers to calculate a meaningful trend. However, counts show numbers are decreasing at the Yare Valley, whilst at the Slamannan Plateau numbers have remained relatively stable in recent decades.
Seemingly moderate, but few data are available for birds in Britain
Musgrove, A.J., G.E. Austin, R.D. Hearn, C.A. Holt, D.A. Stroud & S.R. Wotton. 2011. Overwinter population estimates of British waterbirds. British Birds 104: 364-397.
The Taiga Bean Goose originates from the taiga zone of Scandinavia and western Russia, at least as far as the Ural Mountains. It winters predominantly in southern Sweden, Denmark and, to a lesser extent, in northern Germany and Poland. Some birds from more eastern breeding areas are thought to migrate through the Baltic States to reach Poland and Germany, instead of passing through the stop over sites in southern Sweden. Small numbers also visit western Denmark, the Netherlands and Britain.
Flyway of the Taiga Bean Goose
There are just two regularly used sites; the Yare Marshes, Norfolk (England) and the Slamannan Plateau, Falkirk District (Scotland). They are believed, however, to have been more numerous in historical times, particularly in Scotland, although some uncertainty exists over their former status because of possible confusion with Pink-footed Goose. Due to its importance for wintering Taiga Bean Geese, the Slamannan Plateau was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and as a Special Protection Area (SPA) in 2008. The Yare Valley is also similarly protected. Outside Britain, uncontrolled hunting and habitat loss are the main concerns. The feeding ecology of Taiga Bean Geese has been studied principally in southern Sweden (e.g. Markgren 1963, Nilsson & Persson 1991). Stubbles are highly favoured during autumn, with cereals and grasses preferred later in winter. Waste crops, particularly sugar beet, are also used when available.
Markgren, G. 1963. Migrating and wintering geese in southern Sweden: Ecology and behaviour studies. Acta Vertebratica 2: 297-418.
Nilsson, L. & H. Persson. 1991. Selection and exploitation of feeding areas by staging and wintering geese in southernmost Sweden. Ornis Svecica 1: 81-92.
Counts and age assessments of Taiga Bean Geese
Counts of Taiga Bean Geese in Britain are undertaken monthly during the autumn and winter at the Slamannan Plateau (Falkirk, Scotland), where they have been monitored since the mid 1980s. The surveys are carried out by the Bean Goose Action Group and Scottish Natural Heritage. Monthly counts are also made at the Yare Marshes (Norfolk, England) during the winter by the RSPB.
Age assessments are also regularly undertaken at the Slamannan Plateau where counters record the number of first winter geese present as well as brood sizes (i.e. the size of family groups). The later arrival of Bean Geese at the Yare Valley, compared with Slamannan, makes it difficult for age assessments to be undertaken there because the young birds have typically completed their post-juvenile moult making it difficult to tell them apart from adults.
Results from these surveys are summarised on the ‘Latest results’ tab.
Find out more about age assessments
Results for 2015/16 [August 2016]
During winter 2015/16, monitoring of Taiga Bean Goose was undertaken at the Slamannan Plateau, Falkirk, by members of the Bean Goose Action Group and at the Yare Valley, Norfolk, by RSPB reserve wardens. A peak count of 263 birds was recorded at Slamannan, similar to the previous ten year mean (258 ± 8.1 SE) (Figure 1) although still below the site peak of 300 birds in winters 2005/06 and 2007/08. At the Yare Valley, where the number of wintering Bean Geese has been declining since 1993/94, the peak count of 22 geese was lower than in 2014/15, when 32 geese were recorded, and far lower than the site peak of 485 birds in 1990/91. The slow decline of this important flock continues; the previous ten year mean has declined to 102 birds (± 13.7 SE).
The first 100 birds arrived at Slamannan on 29 September and the autumn highest count was of 165 birds on 1 November., A second wave of arrivals occurred in early winter indicated by a peak count of 263 birds recorded on 14 January 2016. Migration back to the spring stop over sites in Denmark took place unusually early in February 2016, with birds having left Slamannan around 7 February, compared to recent departures which have occurred in the last two weeks of February. At the Yare Valley, the geese again arrived slightly later than in recent years. No geese were recorded in October and the first birds (22 individuals) were seen on 26 November – the highest count of the winter. That number was never surpassed or matched during the remainder of the winter and from 19 December only two birds were seen. Two birds were also seen on 4 January – the last sighting of the winter. The duration of stay of the Yare Valley flock appears to be getting shorter.. No neck collared birds ringed in Sweden were recorded at the Yare Valley during winter 2015/16.
Figure 1. Winter peak counts of Taiga Bean Geese at Slamannan Plateau, Falkirk (red circles) and at Yare Valley, Norfolk (blue line) from 1960/61-2015/16.
Age assessments at Slamannan indicated that 2015 was a poor breeding year for Taiga Bean Geese wintering in Scotland. A flock of 152 birds was aged on 24 October, of which seven (4.6%) were young birds (Figure 2). Three families were identified with a mean brood size of 2.3 goslings per successful pair. The same seven first winter birds had been identified in an earlier sample of 50 birds aged a week earlier. Had the early count been the only age count carried out at Slamannan, breeding success would have been over-estimated (at 14.0%) and indicates the value of obtaining the largest sample possible. However, no age assessment was carried out in mid winter after the arrival of more birds to Slamannan. Breeding success data were not collected at the Yare Valley.
Figure 2. The percentage of young (blue columns) and mean brood size (red line) of Taiga Bean Geese recorded at Slamannan Plateau, 2006-2015.
Migration and site use
One of the five Bean Geese caught in October 2013 at Slamannan and fitted with telemetry equipment enabling the birds’ feeding and roosting habits to be studied in detail, continued to collect data during winter 2015/16. In addition, seven Bean Geese were caught using cannon-nets in October 2015 and four of these (all adults) were fitted with new telemetry devices. This allowed detailed feeding distribution data to be collected for another winter in addition to providing valuable data on roost use. The migration route and stop over sites in northwest Jutland, Denmark were also tracked. We know from the movements of previously marked individuals that the geese move to Dalarna County in west Sweden where it is believed they spend the summer and probably breed.
Since the peak count of 300 Bean Geese in 2005/06 and 2007/08, numbers at Slamannan have declined to approximately at 200-270 birds, although the peak count in 2015/16 (263 birds) was an increase on recent years. Breeding success in 2015, as recorded at Slamannan, was again poor, however, because this flock is <1% of the whole population, this estimate may not be representative of overall breeding success in the population. Bean Geese are not legal quarry in Scotland and few are probably shot in Sweden, Norway or Denmark. With average or good breeding success recorded at Slamannan in most years since 2004 (Figure 2), it is therefore surprising that the number of geese recorded there has fallen from a peak of 300 in 2007/08. There may be unknown sources of mortality affecting this small group, or there may be connectivity between the Scottish winter flock and those wintering on the continent. Based on sightings of colour ringed birds, we know that one of the 33 Bean Geese marked at Slamannan since 2011 has over-wintered on the continent.
Numbers at the Yare Valley continue to decline and the winter 2015/16 count of 22 birds is the lowest since 1954/55. The decline has been remarkable, since over 400 birds were recorded there as recently as 1993/94. We know through sightings of neck collared individuals that the Norfolk flock is separate from the Slamannan flock in Scotland and is linked to wintering flocks in west Denmark. It is likely, therefore that rather than crossing the North Sea to winter in Norfolk, Bean Geese are ‘short-stopping’ and wintering in Denmark instead. This phenomenon might also help explain why the Slamannan flock is not increasing (see above).
Thanks are extended to Angus Maciver (Bean Goose Action Group) and Ben Lewis (RSPB) for providing additional information above.
Previous annual results will be archived here.
Colour-marking of Taiga Bean Geese began at the Slamannan Plateau, near Falkirk in 2001/2 by the Bean Goose Action Group, Scottish Natural Heritage and WWT. Since that winter, 39 birds have been caught and marked with neck collars. Nine birds have also been fitted with GPS-Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) transmitters attached to neck collars.
The tagged geese have provided vital information on winter site use, the migratory routes taken and stopover sites used by these birds and where they breed (see here). In February, the geese leave the Slamannan Plateau and use stop over sites in northwest Denmark, and then in either south Sweden or southern Norway during March. By mid-April the geese move to west central Sweden, an area of mixed wetland/forest and seemingly ideal breeding habitat. These geese spend the entire summer there, including the moulting period in mid-summer when the birds are flightless. During August, the geese move south again using the same stopover sites in either south Norway or south Sweden before returning to Slamannan in late September or early October.
Further details can be found on the project’s website, with updates in GooseNews 12 and here . Results from a recent GPS tracking project have also been published in Bird Study as Mitchell, C., L. Griffin, A . Maciver, B. Minshull & N. Makan. 2016. Use of GPS tags to describe the home ranges, migration routes, stop-over locations and breeding area of Taiga Bean Geese Anser fabalis fabalis wintering in central Scotland. Bird Study 63: 437-446.
Hearn, R.D. 2004. Bean Goose Anser fabalis in Britain and Ireland 1960/61 – 1999/2000. Waterbird Review Series, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust / Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Slimbridge. Download
Mitchell, C. 2010. The design of a monitoring programme for Bean Geese on the Slamannan Plateau. Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report No.389. Download
Other relevant material