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.
Global status (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) Least Concern*† African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) A3c*; International Single Species Action Plan European status (European Red List of Birds) Least Concern (Europe and EU27)* The Birds Directive (European Commission) Annex II (Part A)* UK status (Birds of Conservation Concern) Amber UK quarry species (Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981) not huntable * assessed at species level Bean Goose 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 7; Wetlands International 2015) 21,000 individuals UK estimate (APEP 4) 230 individuals GB estimate (Frost et al. 2019) 230 individuals UK trend (Frost et al. 2020) 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.
Frost, T.M., N.A. Calbrade, G.A. Birtles, H.J. Mellan, C. Hall, A.E. Robinson,S.R. Wotton, D.E. Balmer & G.E. Austin. 2020. Waterbirds in the UK 2018/19: The Wetland Bird Survey. BTO, RSPB and JNCC, in association with WWT. British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford.
Frost, T., G.E. Austin, R.D. Hearn, S. McAvoy, A. Robinson, D.A. Stroud, I. Woodward & S.R. Wotton. 2019. Population estimates of wintering waterbirds in Great Britain. British Birds 112: 130-145.
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 NatureScot. 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 2019/20 [October 2020]
Updates to data
The following updates have been made to the abundance and breeding success data:
Peak total numbers at the Slamannan Plateau
- 1997/98: updated from 155 to 153 individuals
- 2016/17: updated from 216 to 236 individuals
- 2017/18: updated from 206 to 228 individuals
Breeding success recorded at the Slamannan Plateau
- 2018: the percentage of young has been updated from 5% to 7%; and the mean brood size has been updated from 1.3 to 2.4 young per successful pair.
The two flocks of Taiga Bean Goose wintering in Britain were monitored during winter 2019/20. Counts were undertaken at the Slamannan Plateau, Falkirk by the Bean Goose Action Group and at the Yare Valley, Norfolk, by RSPB reserve wardens.
At the Yare Valley, where the number of wintering Bean Geese has been declining for the past 25 years, the peak count was of only seven birds, 14 fewer than the previous winter and well below the previous ten year mean (55 birds ± 12.6 SE). The duration the birds spend in Norfolk has also shortened, with birds now only recorded in December and January. The long and slow decline in numbers wintering in England continues (there have been fewer than 30 birds at this site since 2014/15) and one wonders when the last birds will spend the winter there.
A peak count of 207 birds was recorded at Slamannan on 24 October, 34 fewer birds than the maximum recorded in the previous winter (241) and lower than the previous ten-year mean (243 ± 4.5 SE) (Figure 1). The first 108 Bean Geese were seen on 3 October, although a Bean Goose fitted with a Global Positioning System (GPS) tag had arrived the day earlier (with an unknown number of other birds). The last 22 birds were seen on 3 February. The number of Bean Geese wintering at Slamannan has declined from 300 birds as recently as 2007/08 at a mean rate of 1.8% per annum.
The total count for the two sites in 2019/20 (214 birds) was well below the previous ten-year mean which has declined to 299 birds (± 15.5 SE) and continued the long and slow decline in numbers wintering in the UK which probably reflects the decline in the overall flyway population or short stopping or a combination of both.
Figure 1. Winter peak counts of Taiga Bean Geese at Slamannan Plateau, Falkirk (red squares) and at Yare Valley, Norfolk (blue circles) from 1960/61–2019/20.
Breeding success was estimated from a sample of 141 birds at Slamannan in late October and 16 birds were aged as first-winter (11.3% young), with a mean brood size of 3.0 young per successful pair (Figure 2). Breeding success, measured as percentage of young birds in a flock, has been below 5% in three out of the last six years.
Figure 2. The percentage of young (blue columns) and mean brood size (red line) of Taiga Bean Geese recorded at Slamannan Plateau, 2004–2019.
Since the peak counts of 300 Bean Geese in 2005/06 and 2007/08, numbers at Slamannan have declined, and the peak count in 2019/20 (207 birds) continues this slow decrease. Breeding success in 2019, as recorded at Slamannan, was not that low (11.3%), so it is perhaps surprising that the winter flock decreased. There appears to be a mismatch between annual breeding success and the number of birds over-wintering in Scotland. In winter 2018/19, only 7% young was recorded, and winter numbers increased by 6%, but in winter 2019/20 there was 11% young and numbers decreased by 14%; the opposite to what might be expected. Quite what is driving the change in numbers at the site is not clear. The surveillance may suffer from low sample sizes when determining breeding success, or there may yet be hitherto undetected connections with birds wintering in Scotland one year and in Denmark the next.
Numbers at the Yare Valley were very low in winter 2019/20. 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.
Thanks are extended to Angus Maciver, Ben Lewis and Larry Griffin and for providing data reproduced here.
Previous annual results will be archived here.
Colour-marking of Taiga Bean Geese began at the Slamannan Plateau, near Falkirk in 2001/02 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.
- Taiga Bean Goose population status reports
- Taiga Bean Goose harvest reports
- Taiga Bean Goose identification guides
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
AEWA European Goose Management Platform Taiga Bean Goose Task Force