Lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus)

GenusAnser (1)
SizeLength: 53 - 66 cm (2)

The lesser white-fronted goose is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix I and II of the Convention on Migratory Species (3). It is also listed on Appendix I of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) (4), and Appendix II of the Bern Convention (5).

With a plump body, long neck, and wings that extend beyond the tip of the tail, the lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus) is distinguishable from other geese by its bright yellow eye-ring, round head and small, bright pink bill. The back, belly and sides are almost uniformly brown, but there is a white blaze on the face and the belly may have black patches in adults. The head and neck are both dark brown. Juveniles lack the white blaze and black belly patches (2) (6).

The lesser white-fronted goose has three main sub-populations. The central Asian or Caspian population breeds in European Russia and central Asia and winters in the Black Sea region. The East Asian population breeds in eastern Siberia and winters in China. The smaller European population breeds in Norway and the Kola Peninsula, Russia and winters in Greece and Turkey (7).

The lesser white-fronted goose breeds in regions with forest tundra surrounding bogs and lakes, and winters on grassland and lake shores (7).

In late May and early June, clutches of three to five eggs are laid and hatch two to three months later. The hatchlings learn to fly within a month. During the breeding season the lesser white-fronted goose eats the green stems and blooms of grasses and sedges, but on migration stopovers and through the winter, it consumes wheat and oat seeds (6). The call of this species is a rather squeaky kyu-yu-yu (2).

Following extensive hunting in Russia, China and Kazakhstan, numbers of the lesser white-fronted goose declined by between 30 and 49 percent in just ten years, between 1998 and 2008. The global population in 2008 was estimated to be between 28,000 and 33,000 individuals (8). This hunting pressure continues in these three countries, which are not party to the Convention on Migratory Species and so cannot be subjected to international action. As they hold responsibility for 95 percent of the lesser white-fronted goose population, it is crucial that Russia, China and Kazakhstan alter their hunting rules to benefit this species (7).

Having signed Memorandums of Understanding with regard to the protection of other bird species occurring within their boundaries, it is hoped that Russia, China and Kazakhstan might be encouraged to alter the timing of hunting to ease the pressure on the lesser white-fronted goose. Ultimately, a ban on the hunting of all Anser species is necessary, as differentiation of goose species is difficult from a distance (7).

In 2008, an International Single Species Action Plan for the conservation of the Western Palearctic population of the lesser white-fronted goose was published. It outlines a number of actions that are required to stop and reverse the current declines observed in these populations (8). As the lesser white-fronted goose is a long-distance migrant, regularly crossing 22 countries, international cooperation will be integral to the conservation of this Vulnerable bird (8).

For further information on the lesser white-fronted goose and its conservation see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

Authenticated (10/03/05) by BirdLife International.

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2008)
  2. Peterson, R.T., Mountfort, G. and Hollom, P.A.D. (1993) A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe. HarperCollins, London.
  3. CMS (May, 2008)
  4. AEWA (December, 2004)
  5. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (December, 2004)
  6. BirdLife International (November, 2008)
  7. CMS (2003) Report on the Status and Perspective of the Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus. UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge, UK.
  8. Jones, T., Martin, K., Barov, B. and Nagy, S. (2008) International Single Species Action Plan for the Conservation of the Western Palearctic Population of the Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus. AEWA Technical Series No.36, Bonn, Germany.