Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Lesser white-fronted goose

Anser erythropus

Photo by Jari Petomäki (Luonto Portti)

Common name:

Order Anseriformes
Family Anatidae

This species breeds in the northern parts of Eurasia, in the interface of the taiga and tundra zones, from Scandinavia in the west, all the way to north-eastern Siberia. They winter primarily in south-eastern Europe, around the Black and Caspian seas, on the lower Euphrates in Iraq, and in the lowlands of eastern and southern China.

They are 53-66 cm long and have a wingspan of 115-135 cm. Males tend to be larger than females, weighing 1950-2300 g while females weigh 1400-2150 g.

The lesser white-fronted goose breeds in low-lying bogs, scrub-covered tundra and taiga-forest edges close to wetlands, up to 700 m above sea level. It can also be found on the slopes by lower parts of mountain streams, on mountain foothills, mountain lakes and on alpine precipices, often in thawing boggy areas or on stone fields. During winter and on migration this species frequents open short grassland in the steppe and semi-arid zones, particularly in seashore pastures, arable farmland, pastures and meadows.

This species is herbivorous, feeding on grasses, roots, stems, leaves, fruits and the green parts of aquatic and terrestrial plants along lake-shores, rivers and marshes. During the winter they sometimes supplement their diet with agricultural grains.

Lesser white-fronted geese start nesting in May-June. They nest on snow-free patches available early in the breeding season, namely rocky outcrops or prominent hummocks, hidden amongst vegetation or in boggy hollows. The female lays 4-6 eggs, which she incubates alone for 25-28 days. Both parents take care of the chicks until fledging, which takes place 35-40 days after hatching.

IUCN status - VU (Vulnerable)
Although they have a very large breeding range, the specie has suffered a rapid population reduction in its key breeding population in Russia, and equivalent declines are predicted to continue. The Fennoscandian population has undergone a severe historical decline, and has not yet recovered. The current population size is estimated at 20.000-25.000 individuals. They are threatened by unsustainable levels of hunting on the staging and wintering grounds and habitat deterioration, justifying the current vulnerable conservation status.

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