Taiga bean geese are a common sight on northern taiga marshes of Siberia and northern Scandinavia in spring and summer, before heading south into Europe each winter. Several hundred individuals spend winters in the UK, with rare vagrant visitors occasionally reported in North America.
Taiga bean geese are medium-sized geese, similar in appearance to several other species of grey geese. Their upperparts are mid-brown, with white edges to feathers, giving a streaked effect that is particularly visible on the wings, which appear grey when folded and a darker charcoal black in flight. The lower belly and undertail are bright white.
The taiga bean goose has a brownish-grey neck, with a darker brown face and neck. The bill has a wide orange band across it, contrasting with a black base and tip. Legs and feet are also orange.
Female and male taiga bean geese are alike in colouring, although females are slightly smaller than males.
Young taiga bean geese are also fairly similar to adults, although duller in plumage and more marked fringing to the edges of feathers on the upper body. The patterning on the wings is less defined and more mottled until they mature. Legs, feet, and bill are a less vibrant shade of orange.
Taiga bean geese can be distinguished from tundra bean geese as they are slightly larger, darker, and sleeker than the tundra species, with a longer neck and more orange on their bill.
Taiga Bean Goose standing in a lake
Taiga bean geese are slightly larger than the very similar related species the tundra bean goose. Males are larger and heavier than females.
Taiga Bean Goose in the icy water stretching its wings
Not one of the noisiest goose species, the taiga bean goose has a low-pitched honking call, heard in flight and on the water as a contact call, which sounds like ‘hank-hunk’.
Taiga Bean Goose calling out from the top of a rock
As their names suggest, taiga bean geese follow a diet in which beans feature heavily. Grasses, cereal crops, potatoes, and other agricultural crops are among the main foods eaten. Leaves, roots, tubers, seeds, grains and nuts are also popular.
Young taiga bean geese are led to grazing grounds shortly after hatching, where they forage for grass and seeds alongside their parents.
Taiga Bean Goose feeding on grass
Taiga bean geese breed in taiga habitats, finding lakes, pools and marshy boglands or rivers in which to nest and forage. The species also nest in the wooded tundra zone.
Winter habitats include open country, and grazing areas around agricultural land, as well as low-lying wetlands, particularly marshes.
Three distinct populations of breeding taiga bean geese exist. The furthest east is found from eastern Scandinavia to the Ural Mountains. Individuals from this population spend winters in western, central, and southern Europe, particularly the Netherlands and Germany.
Further east, from the Ural Mountains to Lake Baikal, taiga bean geese are present, heading to Turkmenistan, Iran, and western China once breeding is complete.
A third population breeds in Siberia, heading south to eastern China and Japan each autumn.
The range of all three populations of taiga bean geese is located to the south of that of the related species, the tundra bean goose.
Worldwide, there are an estimated 680,000 to 800,000 taiga bean geese, although numbers are in decline. Between 63,000 and 85,000 individuals are thought to breed in Sweden, with a further 23,000 pairs in Russia. In winter, the Netherlands and Germany welcome the highest numbers of migrating taiga bean geese.
In the UK, taiga bean geese are more common than the similar tundra bean goose, although neither species is particularly common in the British Isles. Only around 230 taiga bean geese arrive in Britain in the post-breeding season before returning to Scandinavia or Siberia the following spring.
Taiga Bean Goose floating on the river
Taiga bean geese are exceptionally rare vagrant visitors to North America, with occasional sightings reported in Canada and the US, but no regular established breeding or wintering sites.
Reports of taiga bean geese have been recorded in Quebec, Yukon, and Nova Scotia in Canada, and in Alaska, Washington, California, Iowa, and Nebraska, in the United States.
During the spring and summer, taiga bean geese are not found in the wild in the United Kingdom. Arrivals begin in October, with migrating birds arriving from Scandinavia and settling for up to five or six months.
Passage sightings of taiga bean geese are regularly reported in north-east Scotland, but two established sites may offer the best chance of spotting one. These include the Yare Valley in Norfolk and the Avon Valley in Falkirk, south-central Scotland.
Taiga Bean Goose wading in shallow water
Taiga bean geese are thought to breed for the first time at three years and have an expected lifespan of around 7 years. According to ringing records, the oldest known taiga bean goose reached 25 years and 7 months.
Foxes and raptors may attack taiga bean geese and raid their nests for eggs. However, due to their aggressive nature and vigilant nest defense, they are not a common target for predators.
Humans do pose a significant threat, in particular in parts of Scandinavia where hunters kill large numbers of taiga bean geese each year.
As wild birds and migratory visitors to the UK, taiga bean geese have protected status under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, which makes it an offence to kill, injure or take them into captivity.
Although taiga bean geese are considered a species of least concern globally, numbers are believed to be in decline across much of their range. Habitat degradation, poisoning by pesticides and the effect of climate change on northern breeding grounds are all threats to the future survival of the species.
Hunting is also a threat in Sweden and Norway. In Britain, taiga bean geese have Amber status on the British Birds of Conservation Concern list.
Pair of Taiga Bean Geese preparing for take-off
Taiga bean geese nest on boggy ground, choosing raised spots such as hummocks at least 50 cm above the bog’s surface to ensure they are safe from flooding or rising water levels. Nests are built from aquatic vegetation found nearby.
Taiga bean geese begin to arrive on breeding grounds from April onwards, with laying reaching a peak in May although it may be delayed depending on weather conditions.
After an incubation period of 25 to 29 days, by the female alone, the eggs hatch, and young taiga bean goose goslings are able to swim and forage for their own food almost immediately.
Between four and six pale, unmarked eggs are laid by taiga bean geese. Eggs are large, measuring 84 mm by 56 mm (3.3 in by 2.2 in) and weighing approximately 146 g (5.2 oz).
Strong, long-term monogamous pair bonds are formed between taiga bean geese mates, which are only broken on the death of one partner. Pairs raise one brood together each year
Nest of a Taiga Bean Goose with five eggs
Taiga bean geese are notoriously aggressive when they sense a threat to their territory, their mate, or their young. Physical aggression and vocal assertion are used to drive off any approaching humans, animals, or other birds. They are relatively social among other geese outside of the breeding season, migrating and foraging together without conflicts.
Flock of Taiga Bean Geese in-flight
Taiga bean geese are relatively short-distance migrants, breeding in the sub-Arctic taiga regions of northern Europe and moving southwards into central and southern Europe, Iran, parts of China, Japan, the Korean peninsula, and South East Asia.
Migration south begins from October and November onwards, with the return trip starting in February each year.
Taiga bean geese are only very rare and occasional vagrants to North America, with their native range occurring in northern Europe and parts of Central Asia.
No taiga bean geese breed in the UK, but two regular sites welcome winter migrants each year, one in Scotland and one in Norfolk. Only around 230 individuals arrive in the UK after the breeding season ends and depart the following spring.
Family:Ducks, geese and swans
66cm to 88cm
147cm to 175cm
2.6kg to 4kg
The Eurasian wigeon is a medium dabbling duck that commonly breeds across northern Europe, and winters further south, including in the British Isles and occasionally in North America. Rare vagrant breeding pairs can be found in the United States, and small breeding grounds have also been established in northern England and Scotland.
This large bird arrives on our shores from Iceland to overwinter in late September, returning northwards to breed from mid March onwards.
Greater White-Fronted Goose
One of several similar wildfowl species in the Anser genus, Greater White-fronted Geese live up to their name with a distinctive white patch on the front of their face. The species is extremely widespread, although there are several sub-species, each with different breeding and overwintering ranges.
Larger than the Common Scoter this elegant European diving duck spends much of its time at sea and is often seen in company with mixed flocks resting on the water’s surface far out from land.
Tundra Bean Goose
The tundra bean goose is the most common species of bean goose, and breeds on Russian tundra landscapes. Winters are spent grazing on open fields, marshes and agricultural land in western and central Europe and East Asia.
The Tufted Duck is the UK’s most common diving duck and a familiar sight on lakes and ponds across the country. Known for their long, hair-like tufts, these small waterfowl are fairly easy to identify but may be confused with other ducks from the Aythya genus.
Fast and erratic in flight, the Teal is the United Kingdom’s smallest wildfowl species. Despite occurring year-round in low numbers, birdwatchers are most likely to spot these tiny ducks in the winter when large numbers arrive from abroad.
One of seven American goose species, the Snow Goose is a noisy migrant that visits the Lower 48 states each winter. These beautiful birds have increased dramatically since the second half of the 20th century.
Despite being only a rare winter visitor to the British Isles, the Smew is one of the countrys most unmistakable and easily identified duck species. Breeding across Central Asia and returning to Western Europe during winter months, smews begin to turn up on inland lakes as well as in coastal regions from November onwards.
One look at the bill of a northern shoveler should be enough to provide you with an accurate species identification: their flattened shovel-like bills are unique among waterfowl and allow them to feed on tiny plankton by sweeping their heads across the water’s surface.
A large colourful duck, often found in coastal areas, the shelduck, is an established breeding waterbird in the UK. British wetlands are also a major wintering ground for the species, hosting up to 30 percent of Europe’s shelduck population each autumn.
A medium-sized diving duck, the greater scaup is known simply as the scaup in Europe, and locally as the ‘bluebill’ in North America. Only a handful of scaup breed in the UK, making it the rarest breeding duck in the British Isles.
A striking and fascinating little diving duck with an unusual courtship display, the Ruddy Duck is a widespread migrant in North America.
Colourful and instantly recognisable diving ducks, red-crested pochards are present in the UK in small numbers, believed to have initially been introduced into the wild from private wildfowl collections. Some breeding does occur in Britain, although the best chance of a sighting comes with the arrival of several hundred migrants each winter.
A speedy migratory wildfowl with a hardcore hairstyle, the Red-breasted Merganser is widespread in coastal and estuarine habitats across the Northern Hemisphere.
During the winter the population of this rare resident breeding duck increases by 55 times to that of the summer, with the influx of many thousands of others overwintering, having arrived from Russia and Eastern Europe.
Widespread in the Northern Hemisphere, Northern Pintails are distinctive migratory waterfowl. Drakes in breeding plumage are particularly attractive, although the drabber females and non-breeding males are still identifiable by their long necks and graceful form.
Although the pink-footed goose does not breed in Britain, it is a common winter visitor, with over half a million migrating individuals arriving each autumn from breeding grounds in Iceland, Greenland and Norway’s Svalbard peninsula.
One of the world’s heaviest flying birds, and one of the most beautiful too, the Mute Swan is a majestic waterfowl with a mean reputation.
Sightings of wild Mandarin Ducks in the United States cause quite a stir, and it’s easy to see why. These small but eye-catching waterfowl are, in fact, native to the Far East of Asia, although their popularity as an ornamental species has resulted in their introduction to many parts of the world, including the United Kingdom.
Instantly recognizable, the Mallard is a medium-sized dabbling duck that is familiar to people all over the world. These adaptable waterfowl are the ancestor of the modern domestic duck and are found everywhere from remote wilderness lakes to suburban backyards.
One of the most distinctive duck breeds, thanks to their extended streaming tail feathers, the long-tailed duck is a coastal waterbird that spends winters at sea, foraging for crustaceans in marine waters, after breeding on Arctic tundra landscapes.
The Greylag goose is the largest grey goose from the Anser genus of the Anatidae family of waterbirds. A stout, robust and heavyweight bird, the Greylag goose is the closest wild relative and ancestor to the domestic goose. Greylag geese are distributed across much of Europe and Asia, extending into eastern Russia and China. Most populations migrate, but some are sedentary, including in much of Northern Europe.
Widespread throughout the northern hemisphere, the common merganser is the largest of the saw billed fish eating ducks. There are three sub-species with the Eurasian variant frequently known as the Goosander.
Goldeneyes are distinctive diving ducks that thrive in cold environments, breeding in boreal forests across Canada, northern Scandinavia and northern Russia. Only when the lakes and coastal areas on their summer territories begin to freeze over as fall approaches do they begin to head south to milder regions where they spend winter months foraging on inland lakes and around sheltered bays.
The Gargeney is a dabbling duck, slightly smaller than a mallard, and considered a rare breeder in the UK, with just over 100 pairs recorded. A fully migratory species, all garganeys spend winters in southern Africa, leaving breeding grounds as early as July, so your window for spotting one on British waters is only a very brief one.
The Gadwall is a widely distributed dabbling duck of the Anatidae family that breeds in the Northern Hemisphere. This hardy duck breeds as far north as Siberia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and coastal Alaska and is found across both the Americas, Europe, and Asia.
The common eider (Somateria mollissima) is a large and widespread sea duck that is perhaps best known for its valuable insulating down feathers.
Regarded as being sacred by early Egyptians, this native goose of the African continent was introduced into Europe and elsewhere as an ornamental wildfowl species in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century.
The word scoter is often used to define northern sea ducks. There are six different species of scoter, all of which are monotypic and three of which are confined to North America. The Common Scoter like the Velvet Scoter can only be found in Europe and Asia whilst the Stejneger’s Scoter is a native of Asia alone.
Once decimated through overhunting and habitat destruction, the Canada Goose has rebounded to become one of North America’s most abundant and familiar wildfowl.
A small goose species with a short, stubby bill, the brent goose (or brant, as it is known in North America), breeds in the high Arctic regions of Canada, Greenland, Siberian Russia and northern Europe’s Arctic islands. Brant spend winters along North America’s Pacific coast, part of the east coast of the US, and in north-western Europe, from the British Isles to Denmark.
A subspecies of the North American tundra swan, Bewick’s swans breed in Siberia and arrive in the UK each autumn. Worrying declines have been observed in the European population in recent years, and today only around 4,350 individuals migrate to the UK each winter.
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