Anser anser 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Anseriformes Anatidae

Scientific Name: Anser anser (Linnaeus, 1758)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Greylag Goose
Taxonomic Source(s): Cramp, S. and Simmons, K.E.L. (eds). 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Malpas, L.
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Countries occurrence:
Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Armenia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Belarus; Belgium; Bhutan; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; China; Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Faroe Islands; Finland; France; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Iceland; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Japan; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Korea, Republic of; Kuwait; Kyrgyzstan; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Latvia; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Malta; Moldova; Mongolia; Montenegro; Morocco; Myanmar; Nepal; Netherlands; Norway; Pakistan; Poland; Portugal; Qatar; Romania; Russian Federation (Central Asian Russia, Eastern Asian Russia, European Russia); Saudi Arabia; Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain (Canary Is. - Vagrant, Spain (mainland)); Sri Lanka; Svalbard and Jan Mayen; Sweden; Switzerland; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom; Uzbekistan; Viet Nam
Argentina; Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
Egypt; Gibraltar; Hong Kong; Lebanon; Libya; Liechtenstein; Oman; Thailand; Yemen
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:30900000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The global population is estimated to number c.1,000,000-1,100,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2015). The European population is estimated at 259,000-427,000 pairs, which equates to 519,000-853,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).

Trend Justification:  The overall population trend is increasing, although some populations have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2015). In Europe the population trend is estimated to be increasing (BirdLife International 2015).
Current Population Trend:Increasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Behaviour This species is fully migratory although some populations in temperate regions are only sedentary (del Hoyo et al. 1992) or locally dispersive (Scott and Rose 1996), occasionally making irregular movements in very icy winters (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species breeds from May or April in loose colonies (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kear 2005a), after which flocks gather to undertake moult migrations to favoured areas (with good feeding opportunities and access to safe roosting sites) (Kear 2005a) to undergo a flightless moulting period lasting c.1 month (Scott and Rose 1996). The species is highly gregarious (Madge and Burn 1988, Kear 2005a) outside of the breeding season (Madge and Burn 1988), with large concentrations forming during the post-breeding moult and before the autumn migration (e.g. flocks of up to 25,000 individuals) (Scott and Rose 1996). The species feeds diurnally, especially during the morning and evening, although non-breeding birds may also feed at night (Kear 2005a). It roosts at night and during the middle of the day on open water (Flint et al. 1984), and may fly to feeding areas more than 10 km away from roosting sites (Kear 2005a) (optimal distance 2-5 km away) (Vickery and Gill 1999). Habitat Breeding During the breeding season the species inhabits wetlands surrounded by fringing vegetation in open grassland (del Hoyo et al. 1992), sedge or heather moorland (Johnsgard 1978), arctic tundra, steppe or semi-desert from sea-level up to 2,300 m (Snow and Perrins 1998). It nests near streams, saltmarshes (Kear 2005a), river flood-plains, reedy marshes, grassy bogs, damp meadows, reed-lined freshwater lakes and estuaries (Johnsgard 1978) close to potential feeding sites such as meadows, grasslands, stubble fields and newly sown cereal fields (Kear 2005a). It requires isolated islands (Kear 2005a) in lakes (Johnsgard 1978) or on along the coast (Kear 2005a) out of reach of land predators for nesting (Kear 2005a). In the autumn (before migration) the species also frequents agricultural land (e.g. sugar-beet, maize and cereal fields) (Kear 2005a). Non-breeding In the winter the species inhabits lowland farmland in open country (Madge and Burn 1988, del Hoyo et al. 1992), swamps (del Hoyo et al. 1992), lakes (Madge and Burn 1988, del Hoyo et al. 1992), reservoirs (Madge and Burn 1988), coastal lagoons (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and estuaries (Madge and Burn 1988). Diet The species is herbivorous, its diet consisting of grass (del Hoyo et al. 1992), the roots, shoots, leaves, stems, seedheads and fruits of other herbaceous marsh vegetation (Johnsgard 1978, del Hoyo et al. 1992), aquatic plants (Johnsgard 1978), and agricultural grain and potatoes (especially in the winter) (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Breeding site The nest is a shallow construction of plant matter (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Snow and Perrins 1998) placed among reedbeds, on the ground (del Hoyo et al. 1992), in or at the base of trees, under bushes or in sheltered hollows on isolated wooded islands on lakes or along coasts (Johnsgard 1978, Kear 2005a), as well as on rafts of vegetation in rivers (Snow and Perrins 1998). Although the species is only semi-colonial, nests may be concentrated within a small area (e.g. placed 11 m apart on small islands) (Johnsgard 1978). Management information On the Vejlerne nature reserve, Denmark, it was found that reedbeds left unharvested for 5-13 years supported the highest nesting densities of this species (Nyeland Kristiansen 1998). Low nesting densities were found in reedbeds in the first four years after reed cutting, and no nests were found in reedbeds cut in the year of study (shoot density may have been too low to provide adequate cover) or in reedbeds left uncut for sixteen years (reed stems may have been too dense) (Nyeland Kristiansen 1998).
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):11.6
Movement patterns:Full Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species is threatened by considerable hunting pressures across much of its range (Madge and Burn 1988, del Hoyo et al. 1992) and is susceptible to poisoning from lead shot ingestion (Mateo et al. 1998). It is also persecuted by farmers as it can cause considerable crop damage (Madge and Burn 1988, del Hoyo et al. 1992). The destruction and degradation of wetland habitats due to drainage (Madge and Burn 1988, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Grishanov 2006), conversion to agriculture (Madge and Burn 1988, del Hoyo et al. 1992), petroleum pollution, peat-extraction, changing wetland management practices (e.g. decreased grazing and mowing in meadows leading to scrub over-growth) and the burning and mowing of reeds is also a threat, especially in breeding areas (Grishanov 2006). The species is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the virus (Melville and Shortridge 2006).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
EU Directives Annex II. CMS Appendix II. The following actions refer to the species's European range only: The species has been successfully reintroduced or introduced in some areas, for example Austria, Belgium, parts of Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands (Carboneras and Kirwan 2014).

Conservation Actions Proposed
The following actions refer to the species's European range only: Accurate monitoring of bag numbers in countries where the species is hunted should be implemented. The integration of farming and conservation measures along with protection of key wetland sites is needed to ensure the population remains stable.

Classifications [top]

4. Grassland -> 4.4. Grassland - Temperate
suitability:Suitable season:non-breeding major importance:No
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.4. Wetlands (inland) - Bogs, Marshes, Swamps, Fens, Peatlands
suitability:Suitable season:breeding major importance:No
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.4. Wetlands (inland) - Bogs, Marshes, Swamps, Fens, Peatlands
suitability:Suitable season:non-breeding major importance:No
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.10. Wetlands (inland) - Tundra Wetlands (incl. pools and temporary waters from snowmelt)
suitability:Suitable season:breeding major importance:No
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.1. Artificial/Terrestrial - Arable Land
suitability:Suitable season:non-breeding major importance:No
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.2. Artificial/Terrestrial - Pastureland
suitability:Suitable season:non-breeding major importance:No

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:No
  Systematic monitoring scheme:Yes
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Invasive species control or prevention:No
In-Place Species Management
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:No
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:No
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:No
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:No

Bibliography [top]

BirdLife International. 2015. European Red List of Birds. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

Carboneras, C. and Kirwan, G.M. 2014. Greylag Goose (Anser anser). In: J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D.A. Christie and E. de Juana (eds), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Delany, S. and Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. and Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Flint, V.E.; Boehme, R.L.; Kostin, Y.V.; Kuznetsov, A.A. 1984. A field guide to birds of the USSR. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

Grishanov, D. 2006. Conservation problems of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds and their habitats in the Kaliningrad region of Russia. In: G. Boere, C. Galbraith and D Stroud (eds), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 356. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, U.K.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-3. Available at: (Accessed: 07 December 2016).

Johnsgard, P.A. 1978. Ducks, geese and swans of the World. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London.

Kear, J. 2005. Ducks, geese and swans volume 1: general chapters; species accounts (Anhima to Salvadorina). Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Kristiansen, J. N. 1998. Nest site preference by Greylag Geese Anser anser in reedbeds of different harvest age. Bird Study 45: 337-343.

Madge, S.; Burn, H. 1988. Wildfowl. Christopher Helm, London.

Mateo, R., Belliure, J., Dolz, J.C., Aguilar-Serrano, J.M. and Guitart, R. 1998. High prevalences of lead poisoning in wintering waterfowl in Spain. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 35: 342-347.

Melville, D.S. and Shortridge, K.F. 2006. Migratory waterbirds and avian influenza in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway with particular reference to the 2003-2004 H5N1 outbreak. In: G. Boere, C. Galbraith and D. Stroud (eds), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 432-438. The Stationery Office, Edinburgh, U.K.

Scott, D. A.; Rose, P. M. 1996. Atlas of Anatidae populations in Africa and western Eurasia. Wetlands International, Wageningen, Netherlands.

Snow, D.W. and Perrins, C.M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Vähätalo, A. V.; Rainio, K.; Lehikoinen, A.; Lehikoinen, E. 2004. Spring arrival of birds depends on the North Atlantic Oscillation. Journal of Avian Biology 35: 210-216.

Vickery, J. A.; Gill, J. A. 1999. Managing grassland for wild geese in Britain: a review. Biological Conservation 89: 93-106.

Wetlands International. 2015. Waterbird Population Estimates. Available at: (Accessed: 17/09/2015).

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Anser anser. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22679889A85975013. . Downloaded on 23 September 2018.
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