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.
Tundra bean geese are medium-sized brown-grey geese, similar in appearance to the greylag goose and taiga bean goose. Males and females are alike in colouring, with both sexes having a dark brownish head and neck, lighter brownish grey breast, upper body and wings, and a white undertail. Wing feathers have pale fringes, giving the appearance of scaling on their backs.
Tundra bean geese have orange legs and feet and their eyes are dark brown. One particularly distinguishing feature is their bill, which is black at the base and the tip, but has a wide orange band across the middle.
Juvenile tundra bean geese are duller in colour than adults, and their heads and necks are a lighter shade of brown. Upper back feathers have pale edges, which gives them an overall marbled appearance. Their legs are not as vibrant an orange as those of adult tundra bean geese, and their bills are entirely orange rather than banded with black.
Tundra Bean Goose in natural habitat
Male tundra bean geese are slightly heavier than females. They are classed as medium geese, and are usually significantly smaller than greylag geese.
Tundra Bean Goose standing near lakeside
Compared to other geese species, tundra bean geese are relatively quiet, and can be heard making a two-note ‘honk-hank’ flight call. The call of a female tundra bean goose is higher in pitch than that of the male.
Tundra Bean Goose in the river stretching its wings
Grains, potatoes, grass, cereals and other crops are the main foods in a tundra bean goose’s diet. During winter, they forage on agricultural land, where beans and carrots seem to be favourites.
In Korea, East China and Japan, rice paddies offer attractive foraging grounds. On their tundra breeding landscapes, some small mammals and insects, particularly midges and mosquitoes, may occasionally be eaten.
As soon as they hatch, young tundra bean geese accompany their parents to forage for their own food, grazing on grasslands and fields for seeds, grain and some small terrestrial insects and mosquitos.
Tundra Bean Goose foraging for food
Breeding grounds of tundra bean geese are found across the sparsely vegetated tundra landscapes of northern Russia, and into taiga zones, where it nests close to lakes, pools and rivers.
Coastal settings become more important in winter months, with inland fields and pasturelands, marshlands and open country among the chief non-breeding habitats.
Tundra bean geese breed across northern Russia and northwestern Siberia, heading south in winter to either north-central and north-western Europe or south-east, towards East China, Korea and Japan.
Winter sightings are generally limited to the northern half of Europe, with Britain and France forming the western extent. Occasionally individuals may reach as far south as Switzerland, although Germany, Poland and Hungary form the usual southern limits to their migratory range.
Summer breeding populations of tundra bean geese live exclusively on the tundra landscapes of northern Russia and north-western Siberia.
The largest winter populations are traditionally found in regions around the North Sea, as well as substantial numbers in Germany, Poland, France and Italy. To the east, around 30,000 tundra bean geese migrate to South Korea each winter, with a further 20,000 arriving in China and 6,000 in Japan.
Close-up of a Tundra Bean Goose
Tundra bean geese are the most common species of bean goose, and more numerous than the similar-looking taiga bean goose. Europe’s winter population is estimated at 550,000 individuals, with around 300 birds arriving in the UK post-breeding.
Tundra bean geese have only ever been recorded as accidental vagrants in the United States, with rare sightings reported in Canada in Quebec, Yukon and Nova Scotia, and Alaska, and in the US in Washington, California, Iowa and Nebraska.
Although each year up to around 300 tundra bean geese spend winters in the UK, arrivals are sporadic and unpredictable and there doesn’t seem to be any affiliation to previously used wintering grounds.
Sightings are most common along the eastern and southeastern coasts of England, and at Gloucestershire’s WWT Slimbridge reserve and Holkham Marshes in Norfolk.
Although arrivals are possible from October onwards, sightings are most common later in winter, in December and January, as it’s believed that prior to this, tundra bean geese may spend time at intermediate moulting grounds in southern Scandinavia.
Migrating birds are regularly seen in passage along stretches of Scotland’s eastern coast.
Tundra Bean Goose heading off towards the water
There are no reliable records for the maximum or average life expectancy of the tundra bean goose, although they are thought to have a similar lifespan to the closely related taiga bean goose, which lives for around 7 years and breeds for the first time at the age of two to three years.
In years when lemming populations are high across Arctic tundra landscapes, tundra bean geese experience lower rates of predation by Arctic foxes – a major predator of the species during the breeding season. They may also occasionally be preyed on by wolves, polar bears and owls.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 prohibits the deliberate killing, injuring or taking into captivity of tundra bean geese in the UK.
Tundra bean geese are considered a species of least concern across much of their European range.
Decreases in numbers have been noted in parts of eastern Europe, in particular Hungary. The population of tundra bean geese that winter in East China, Korea and Japan have witnessed noticeable declines in recent decades and are now classed as a Vulnerable species.
In the UK, they are classified as an Amber species on the British Birds of Conservation Concern list.
Tundra Bean Goose in the cold winter
Tundra bean geese choose nest sites on the Arctic tundra, creating shallow scrapes among the tussocks and rocky and moss-covered ground. Vegetation is used to build up the sides of their nest scrape, and then the interior is lined with lichen and moss, as well as some soft down.
Tundra bean geese typically nest between May and June, although laying of eggs may be delayed by poor weather. One brood per year is usual, and family groups remain together until the following spring. Only females sit on the eggs, and the incubation period lasts for between 24 and 29 days.
Eggs laid by tundra bean geese are cream to strawlike in colour and have no surface markings or streaks. A typical clutch contains 4 to 6 eggs, which measure up to 90 mm by 59 mm (3.5 in by 2.3 in).
Long-term pair bonds are formed between tundra bean geese from the age of two or three years. Pairs then remain together until one mate dies.
Tundra Bean Goose resting in its natural habitat
Tundra bean geese are a highly aggressive species, and do not tolerate approaches to their eggs or young. Such encounters are usually met with a noisy and physical defence, including flapping and attempting to chase off the threat hissing, honking and snapping.
Large flock of Tundra Bean Geese in-flight
Tundra bean geese are fully migratory, breeding in the tundra landscapes of northern Russia and Siberia, before returning to wintering grounds across western and central Europe and isolated regions of Asia, including Korea, Japan and north-western China.
Tundra bean geese are extremely rare vagrant visitors to North America, and no established breeding records exist.
Sightings of around 300 tundra bean geese are reported each year in the UK, most frequently in eastern and southern England. No breeding takes place in Britain, and visiting birds can crop up in different regions each year with no predictable pattern.
Family:Ducks, geese and swans
53cm to 70cm
118cm to 140cm
1.9g to 3.3g
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.
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.
Taiga Bean Goose
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.
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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