The waterfowl genus Anser includes all grey geese and sometimes the white geese. It belongs to the true geese and swan subfamily (Anserinae). The genus has a Holarctic distribution, with at least one species breeding in any open, wet habitats in the subarctic and cool temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in summer. Some also breed further south, reaching into warm temperate regions. They mostly migrate south in winter, typically to regions in the temperate zone. Numerous fossil species have been allocated to this genus. As the true geese are near-impossible to assign osteologically to genus, this must be viewed with caution. It can be assumed with limited certainty that European fossils from known inland sites belong into Anser. As species related to the Canada Goose have been described from the Late Miocene onwards in North America too, sometimes from the same localities as the presumed grey geese, it casts serious doubt on the correct generic assignment of the supposed North American fossil geese. The Early Pliocene Branta howardae is one of the cases where doubts have been expressed about its generic assignment. Similarly, Heterochen = Anser pratensis seems to differ profoundly from other species of Anser and might be placed into a different genus; alternatively, it might have been a unique example of a grey goose adapted for perching in trees.
Listen to the sound of Lesser White-fronted Goose
[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/ANSERIFORMES/Anatidae/sounds/Lesser White-fronted Goose.mp3]
Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto
|wingspan min.:||115||cm||wingspan max.:||135||cm|
|size min.:||56||cm||size max.:||66||cm|
|incubation min.:||25||days||incubation max.:||28||days|
|fledging min.:||30||days||fledging max.:||40||days|
The range in Fennoscandia has contracted markedly during the twentieth century. The distributions in the western and eastern parts of the range have become fragmented: in northern Scandinavia only small groups (loose associations of a few pairs/families) are found in Finnmark, and the situation in Russia is likely to be the same.
Video Lesser White-fronted Goose
The breeding and wintering population of Lesser White-fronted Goose in the western Palearctic has undergone an alarming decline (more than 90%) and range contraction in the second half of this century, and this is apparently continuing. The east Palearctic population is now estimated at c.6,000 birds, based on mid-winter counts. Hence, it is realistic to assume that the population decline has affected the whole of the world population and that the total has declined to fewer than 50,000 individuals, a figure which must be treated as an absolute maximum (Europe fewer than 1,000 wintering; Caspian region possibly 30,000 and almost certainly far fewer; eastern Palearctic 6,000).
The Fennoscandian breeding population was estimated at more than 10,000 individuals in the first half of the twentieth century, but since then the population has crashed, and by 1992 numbers were estimated at c.50 pairs. In Sweden the population is considered close to extinct. In the early 1990s, 30-60 birds gather in a post-moulting site in Porsanger Fjord in Norway (August-September).
Drastic reductions in population size and range have also been recorded in northern Russia since the middle of the twentieth century, and in European Russia the population is estimated at 3,500-5,500 individuals, but this information has to be regarded as a best guess only.
From surveys on the breeding grounds the total population is estimated in Russia to exceed 100,000 individuals; the population in Taimyr has been stable during recent decades. However, these figures have not been confirmed by recent winter counts, as only c.30,000 were accounted for in the Caspian region in the 1980s. Some question the high estimate and state that in many regions of central Siberia and northern Russia the population has decreased. The far east Siberian population has declined sharply in recent decades.
In Hungary, the last birds of winter/spring are usually seen in late March. In western Finland and Norway the first birds usually arrive in early May and migration continues until early June. The geese arrive on the breeding grounds from late May to mid-June and leave the breeding areas from mid-August through September. In Siberia, non-breeding birds undertake a moult-migration to areas north of the breeding range, while non-breeders in Fennoscandia moult at high altitudes. The first autumn influx of birds in Hungary usually occurs in September.
The autumn staging areas and winter quarters of the Scandinavian population are poorly known. Autumn and spring staging areas are found in Hungary, and from late autumn to early spring small numbers are observed in Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. Further to the east, staging areas are found in the Ob valley in Kazakhstan, and major wintering grounds are found in Azerbaijan, and possibly in Iran and Iraq. Massive shifts in winter distribution have occurred in the Caspian region within the last 30-40 years. Wintering areas in Iran have been abandoned, and the status of wintering sites in Iraq is unknown. Spring staging areas are poorly known. In western Finland, small flocks stage in May. Recent use of satellite tracking has enabled important staging areas to be located on the Kanin peninsula, Russia. Potentially important staging areas have been found in Brandenburg, Germany, S.W. Lithuania, the Azov Sea and in northern Kazakhstan. There is unconfirmed information that further staging areas exist in the Baltic republics.