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) 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 Anser fabalis.

    †† Bean Goose 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 8; Wetlands International 2020) 82,000 – 97,000 individuals
    UK estimate (APEP 4) 230 individuals
    GB estimate (Frost et al. 2019) 230 individuals
    UK trend (Frost et al. 2021) 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.
    Reference

    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.

    Frost, T.M., N.A. Calbrade, G.A. Birtles, C. Hall, A.E. Robinson, S.R. Wotton, D.E. Balmer & G.E. Austin. 2021. Waterbirds in the UK 2019/20: The Wetland Bird Survey. BTO, RSPB and JNCC, in association with WWT. British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford.

    Wetlands International. 2021. Waterbird population estimates. Retrieved from http://wpe.wetlands.org/ September 2021.

  • 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 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 2020/21 [September 2021]

    Abundance

    The two regular flocks of Taiga Bean Goose wintering in Britain continued to be monitored during winter 2020/21. 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 in 2020/21 was of only six birds, one fewer than the previous winter and well below the previous ten-year mean (47 birds ± 12.9 SE, 2010/11–2019/20). The first confirmed sighting was on 25 December 2020 and the six birds were last seen at Cantley on 18 January 2021, emphasising the remarkably short duration in which the birds winter in Norfolk. The presumed same six birds were seen at Calton Marshes, Suffolk on 24 January. The duration the birds spend in Norfolk has 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 2015/16) and one wonders when the last birds will spend the winter there.

    A peak count of 210 birds was recorded at Slamannan on 28 November 2020, three more birds than the maximum recorded in the previous winter (207) and lower that the previous ten-year mean (238 ± 5.4 SE, 2010/11–2019/20) (Figure 1). Two Global Positioning System (GPS) tagged birds (see Discussion) left as early as 25 January, whilst others remained until what are now more typical dates of early/mid-February. The number of Bean Geese wintering at Slamannan has declined from a peak of 300 birds counted as recently as 2007/08.

    The total count for the two sites in 2020/21 (216 birds) was well below the previous ten-year mean which has declined to 285 birds (± 16.5 SE, 2010/11–2019/20) and continues 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 1960/61–2020/21.

    Breeding success

    Breeding success was estimated from a sample of 167 birds at Slamannan in mid-December 2020: 20 birds were aged as first-winter (12% young), a value slightly lower than the ten-year mean (14.9 ± 3.6 SE, 2010/11–2019/20) and the mean brood size was 1.5 young per successful pair (Figure 2). Breeding success, measured as the percentage of young birds in sample flocks, has been below 10% young in four out of the last seven years, but was over 10% in each of the years from 2004 to 2013.

    Figure 2. The percentage of young (blue columns) and mean brood size (red line) of Taiga Bean Geese recorded at Slamannan Plateau, 2004–2020.

    Discussion

    Since the peak counts of 300 Bean Geese in 2005/06 and 2007/08, numbers at Slamannan have declined, and the peak count in 2020/21 (210 birds) continues this slow decrease. Breeding success in 2020, as recorded at Slamannan, was just below the ten-year mean.

    Numbers at the Yare Valley were, once again, very low in winter 2020/21. The decline has been remarkable, almost 500 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 also ‘short-stopping’ and wintering in Denmark instead.

    Since 2011, a number of Bean Geese from the Slamannan flock have been caught and fitted with GPS tracking devices to help map out their winter quarters, reveal their migration routes and breeding quarters and shed light on the timing of their movements. Six tagged individuals continued to provide location data throughout winter 2020/21 and revealed that two birds, originally caught in Scotland in October 2019, did not return to Slamannan. Instead, they wintered in northwest Denmark. This could be one of two strategies; in winter 2019/20, the pair may have chosen to winter in Scotland for the first time and got caught and tagged, with the pair returning to their normal habit of wintering in Denmark, however, it is more likely that the pair were regular Scottish wintering birds, but in 2020/21 “short-stopped” on the Continent. Links with wintering flocks in Denmark have been hard to determine, but “short-stopping” could offer clues as to why numbers are declining at both sites in Britain.

    A report describing the 2020/21 results from the Slamannan Plateau, produced for the Bean Goose Action Group, can be found on the website ‘Scotland’s Bean Geese’ at https://sites.google.com/view/scotlands-bean-geese/downloads.

    Acknowledgements

    Thanks are extended to the Angus Maciver and the RSPB for providing the information above.

  • Previous annual results will be archived here.

    2019/20 Results

    2018/19 Results

    2017/18 Results

    2016/17 Results

    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 2001/02 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.

  • Relevant publications

    AEWA International Species Action Plan

    AEWA An Interim Harvest Strategy for Taiga Bean Geese

    AEWA European Goose Management Platform publications:

    • 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

    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