Red-breasted goose (Branta ruficollis)

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Red-breasted goose fact file

Red-breasted goose description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderAnseriformes
FamilyAnatidae
GenusBranta (1)

With beautifully defined blocks of colour, the red-breasted goose is one of the most attractive goose species in the world, but also one of the rarest (8). The fore-neck, breast and sides of the head are chestnut red bordered with white. The wings, back and fore-belly are charcoal black, with a bright white stripe running down the side to the white rear belly. The short neck and dark belly stand out in flight, and when seen from above two crescent-shaped stripes are visible on each wing. Juveniles are less well defined, and duller in colour. Adults make repeated ‘kik-yoik, kik-yik’ sounds in flight (2).

Spanish
Barnacla Cuellirroja.
Size
Length: 53 – 56 cm (2)
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Red-breasted goose biology

During winter, the red-breasted goose feeds on winter wheat, barley, maize, pasture grasses and natural grassland (2). When it moves to the breeding grounds in early June, the diet changes, and consists primarily of grass leaves and shoots (8). In the second half of June, females lay between three and ten eggs, which are incubated for around 25 days (8). Nests are built in close proximity to other red-breasted goose nests, and also to the nests of peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) and snowy owls (Nyctea scandiaca), as these birds provide protection from predators, improving breeding success of the geese (2). The chicks fledge at between five to six weeks of age. In mid-September, the red-breasted geese begin their migration back to the western Black Sea coast, arriving in October or November (8).

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Red-breasted goose range

Breeding on the Taimyr, Gydan and Yamal peninsulas of Russia, the majority of the population of red-breasted geese migrate through Bulgaria and Romania to the Black Sea for winter. Small numbers winter in Ukraine, or in Greece if it is particularly cold. Until the 1950s, most red-breasted geese wintered in Azerbaijan, but the habitat is no longer suitable (2).

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Red-breasted goose habitat

Red-breasted geese nest in tundra, and less often, in open parts of shrub tundra, where high and dry areas are favoured, such as steep river banks, rocky slopes, rocky crags and gullies. When not breeding, red breasted geese are found in steppe habitats, where they feed on agricultural land and drink from coastal lakes. During winter, red-breasted geese also roost on lakes, or in remote wetlands (8).

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Red-breasted goose status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3). It is also listed on Appendices I and II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) (4), Appendix II of the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (5), Annex I of the EC Birds Directive (6), and Annex II of the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (7).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Red-breasted goose threats

Hunting in Bulgaria, as well as in Romania and Ukraine, is a threat for the red-breasted goose. Tourist trips for hunting are becoming more common in Ukraine, and birds are often shot at the breeding grounds in Russia. Additionally, climate change is expected to alter tundra habitats and thereby reduce breeding success. The use of rodenticides in the wintering grounds has also had a deleterious impact upon populations of the red-breasted goose (2) (8).

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Red-breasted goose conservation

The red-breasted goose is legally protected in many key states, and parts of the breeding and wintering ranges are protected, but hunting continues regardless. Wintering sites in Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine are on a monitoring programme through the Red-breasted Goose Monitoring and Research Programme. The goal is to provide up-to-date information regarding the status of the species, its habitat, movements, ecology, and conservation needs (10). In Bulgaria, a management plan is being implemented for roosting lakes (2). In Romania, a management plan was drafted for Lake Techirghiol in 2008 along with the Romanian National Action Plan (10). An International Action Plan was published in 1996, which proposed a number of conservation measures for the red-breasted goose. These included the expansion of monitoring and research programmes, protection of key sites, control of illegal hunting, promotion of beneficial agricultural policies and the continuation of public awareness initiatives (8).

The Red-breasted Goose International Working Group is an informal expert group of organisations, working to implement the International Action Plan and protect this globally threatened species (9). In February 2009 a Life/AEWA Red-breasted Goose Workshop took place in Constanta, Romania. The aim of the workshop was two-fold: to draft a new International Species Action Plan and to report the results of the Life project “Improving wintering conditions for Branta ruficollis at Techirghiol” (10).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For further information on the red-breasted goose please see:

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Authentication

Authenticated (14/03/08) by Lavinia Raducescu, Red-breasted Goose International Working Group Coordinator, SOR/BirdLife Romania.

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Glossary

AEWA
The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds.
Life
The Eurpoean Unions’s financial instrument supporting environmental and nature conservation projects throughout the European Union.
Steppe
A biome (or subdivision of the Earth’s surface) that is composed of a swathe of temperate grassland stretching from Romania to China.
Tundra
Treeless, grassy plains characteristic of arctic and sub-arctic regions. They are very cold and have little rainfall.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. BirdLife International (March, 2005)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/search/species_search.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=387&m=0
  3. CITES (March, 2005)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. CMS (March, 2005)
    http://www.cms.int
  5. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (March, 2005)
    http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/cultureheritage/conventions/bern/default_en.asp
  6. EC Birds Directive (March, 2005)
    http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-1373
  7. AEWA (March, 2005)
    http://www.unep-aewa.org/home/index.htm
  8. Hunter, J.M. and Black, J.M. (1996) International Action Plan for the Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis). In: Heredia, B., Rose, L. and Painter, M. (Eds) Globally Threatened Birds in Europe. Action Plans. Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg.
  9. Raducescu, L. (2008) Pers. comm.
  10. Red-breasted Goose International Working Group (February, 2008)
    http://www.brantaruficollis.org
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Red-breasted goose sitting  
Red-breasted goose sitting

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