Taiga Bean Goose

Anser fabalis fabalis

Taiga Bean Goose Dave Appleton

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.

  • Conservation Status

    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*†

    A3c*

    Least Concern (Europe and EU27)*

    Annex II (Part A)*

    Amber

    not huntable

    * 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’.

    Population status

    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

    410 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

    Reference

    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 map bean_fabalis

    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.

    References

    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 2016/17 [August 2017]

    Abundance

    During winter 2016/17, monitoring of Taiga Bean Goose, was again 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 216 birds was recorded at Slamannan, lower to the previous ten-year mean (255 ± 6.7 SE) (Figure 1) and well below the peak there 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 23 geese was one bird higher than in 2015/16, when 22 geese were recorded. The slow decline of this important flock continues and the previous ten year mean has declined to 87 birds (± 13.6 SE).

    The first 150 birds arrived at Slamannan on 4 October and the autumn highest count was of 216 birds on 14 October. The autumn gathering began to break up into smaller flocks, and it is unknown if there was an influx of late arriving birds. Migration back to the spring stop over sites in Denmark again took place unusually early in February 2016, with birds leaving on the evening of 5 February (but see below). At the Yare Valley, the geese again arrived slightly later than usual. No geese were recorded in October and the first birds (22 individuals) were seen on 26 November. The highest winter count of 23 birds was recorded the next day. That number was never beaten or matched during the remainder of the winter. Twenty-one Bean Geese were counted on 15 January 2017, but by 21 January only six birds remained – the last sighting of the winter. The duration of stay of the Yare Valley flock appears to be getting shorter each year. No neck collared birds ringed in Sweden were recorded at the Yare Valley during winter 2016/17.

    Figure 1. Winter peak counts of Taiga Bean Geese at Slamannan Plateau, Falkirk (red circles) and at Yare Valley, Norfolk (blue line) from 1960/61–2016/17.

    Breeding success

    Age assessments at Slamannan indicated that 2016 was again a poor breeding year for Taiga Bean Geese wintering in Scotland. A flock of 138 birds was aged on 24 October, of which five (3.6%) were young birds (Figure 2). Four families were identified with a mean brood size of 1.25 goslings per successful pair. 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, 2004–2016.

    Spring migration from Slamannan

    Part of the Slamannan flock left Scotland on the late evening of 5 February and others on the morning of 6 February 2017. Some of the migrating birds flew into strong headwinds half ways across the North Sea and rather than push on, either abandoned the crossing and turned back or simply got carried along with the strong south-easterly winds. GPS data showed that some of the birds landed in Orkney before heading south straight back to Slamannan. They then made a successful crossing a week later (20 February). One bird stayed on Orkney and made a direct crossing to Denmark alone. The migration story can be followed here.

    Discussion

    Since the peak count of 300 Bean Geese in 2005/06 and 2007/08, numbers at Slamannan have declined to approximately 200–270 birds, although the peak count in 2016/17 (216 birds) was a decrease on recent years.

    Breeding success in 2016, 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 poor breeding success recorded at Slamannan since 2014/15 (Figure 2), it is therefore perhaps unsurprising that the number of geese recorded there has decrease recently. 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 2016/17 count of 23 birds is the second lowest since 1954/55. The decline has been remarkable, since over 400 birds were recorded there as recently as 1993/94. It is likely 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).

    An analysis of location data provided by GPS collars documented the movements of the Slamannan flock to their hitherto unknown breeding quarters in south central Sweden and helped to identify key staging areas in Denmark and Norway (Mitchell et al. 2016).

    Acknowledgements

    Thanks are extended to Angus Maciver (Bean Goose Action Group) and Ben Lewis (RSPB) for providing additional information above.

    References

    Mitchell, C., L. Griffin, A. Maciver, B. Minshull & N. Mckan, N. .2016. Migration routes, stop-over locations and breeding area of Taiga Bean Geese Anser fabalis fabalis wintering in central Scotland. Bird Study 63: 437–446

  • Previous annual results will be archived here.

    2015/16 Results 

    2014/15 Results

    2013/14 Results

    2012/13 Results

    2011/12 Results

    2010/11 Results

    2009/10 Results

    2008/09 Results

    2007/08 Results

    2006/07 Results

    2005/06 Results

  • Background

    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.

  • Relevant publications

    AEWA International Species Action Plan

    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

    Bean Geese in Scotland: Detailed information about Bean Geese in central Scotland (Slamannan Plateau) and Angus Maciver’s blog

    Birdlife International Species factsheet

    British Trust for Ornithology: BirdFacts

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