Anser fabalisbean goose

Geographic Range

Anser fabalis, also known as the bean goose, can be found in parts of Europe and Asia. There are five subspecies of this bird: A. f. fabalis, A. f. middendorffii, A. f. rossicus, A. f. serrirostris, and A. f. johanseni. Not all sources differentiate subspecies, but it can be inferred from the location.

The subspecies A. f. fabalis is found in Europe, the British Isles, and eastern Russia. They summer in northern latitudes, specifically Finland, Sweden, and eastern Russia. The winter range of this species appears to be erratic. It has been documented in the Netherlands, Scotland, Britain, Germany, southern Sweden, southern France, northern Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Belgium.

Anser f. johanseni summers in western Siberia and migrates to western China, Kirghizstan, and Kazakhstan. The subspecies A. f. rossicus spends its summers in north west Siberia. Its wintering range is in southeastern and western Europe and western China. The subspecies A. f. serrirostris spends its summer months in eastern Siberia and winters in China, Japan, and Korea. Anser f. middendorffii shares summer grounds with A. f. serrirostris, yet the former can live as far as the Pacific coast of Russia and into northern Mongolia. It winters in eastern China and Japan.

Both A. f. fabalis and A. f. rossicus have been occasionally spotted in the United States (specifically Alaska, Iowa, and Washington) and Canada. (Bright, et al., 2008; Bruinderink, 1989; Dunn and Alderfer, 2011; Faragó and Gosztonyi, 2009; Jourdain, 1925; Müller, et al., 1999; Nilsson, 2011; Oglivie and Young, 2002; Pirkola and Kalinainen, 1984; Sibley and Monroe, 1990)


During the spring, bean geese are found in the colder biomes near marshes and lakes, specifically tundra and taiga habitats. While wintering, this species frequents large fields (especially agricultural land), lakes, and marshes. The subspecies A. f. johanseni and A. f. serrirostris are found by lakes and marshes more often than the other subspecies - the assumption is that food, a limiting resource in their range, is more abundant for them in these habitats. (Bruinderink, 1989; Oglivie and Young, 2002; Stokes and Stokes, 2010)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams

Physical Description

The physical description of this species is generally shared by each subspecies, with the exception being the coloration and size of the bill and the body length. The largest subspecies is A. f. middendorffii, which is 75 to 90 cm long, while A. f. rossicus is the smallest at 65 to 80 cm long. The wingspan ranges from 140 to 190 cm across all subspecies. The female typically weighs 2.8 kg and the male 3.4 kg. For all subspecies, the head and back are brown and the neck and breast are very light tan. The belly is white with bars of light brown on the breast, wing bow, and thigh cover. The tips of the brown wing feathers are lined white, creating bars along the back. The tail feathers are similar in color to the wing feathers. The legs of this goose are orange. Juveniles of these species are similar to adults, but with lighter coloring and less barring. The bills are slightly different among most subspecies. Three subspecies A. f. fabalis, A. f. middendorffii, and A. f. johanseni have long, black bills with an orange stripe over the upper mandible, although the latter two have less orange. The bill of A. f. rossicus is shorter and thicker with the orange near the upper mandible. Anser f. serrirostris has a long bill that is black with just a strip of orange. Coloration does not change by season. ("Bean Goose Anser fabalis", 2012; Dunn and Alderfer, 2011; Oglivie and Young, 2002; "Parts of a Goose Labeled", 2013; Stokes and Stokes, 2010)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    2.8 to 3.4 kg
    6.17 to 7.49 lb
  • Range length
    65 to 90 cm
    25.59 to 35.43 in
  • Range wingspan
    140 to 190 cm
    55.12 to 74.80 in


Bean geese mate for life and mates are selected by the second winter of life. When choosing a mate, courtships are performed over several weeks. Activities may include flights of three or four birds together or a display of the tail feathers when swimming. However, gender-specific roles have been hard to determine due to the similarity of sexes. When a mate is chosen, the "Triumph Ceremony" is performed by both members of the pair. When this ceremony occurs, birds in the genus Anser extend their necks, put their heads close together, and sing to each other. This is typically initiated by the male after he chases away another male. The ceremony can be performed throughout the lifetime of these birds as a way to renew the mate bond and to strengthen family ties when young are involved. Young participate in this ceremony with the parents when they are present. (Ogilvie, 2010)

This species breeds yearly and pairs typically raise the young together. On occasion (15% in one study), broods are raised by single parents. This finding was intrinsically linked to hunting; when hunting pressure decreased, just 5 to 10% of broods were raised by a single parent. Bean geese typically lay 4 to 6 eggs which are incubated for 27 to 29 days. Goslings fledge around day 40 and but are not fully independent until approximately 2.5 months. Sexual maturity is generally reached in the second or third year of life. Van Impe (1996) conducted a study on the reproductive survival rates of A. f. rossicus from 1970 to 1995. He found that when examining years with large sample sizes (60 to 120 flocks), 1.8 to 2.6 offspring (average = 2.1) survived to winter. It was also suggested that the larger flocks produce more surviving offspring. Perhaps this is because larger numbers have a greater ability to protect the young. (Arzel, et al., 2006; Impe, 1996; Ogilvie, 2010)

  • Breeding interval
    Bean geese breed once a year.
  • Breeding season
    Bean geese breed during summer months.
  • Range eggs per season
    4 to 6
  • Range time to hatching
    27 to 29 days
  • Average fledging age
    40 days
  • Average time to independence
    2.5 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3 years

In other Anser species, both males and females raise the young, and initial research suggests this is the same for bean geese. In a study, about 85% of broods were raised by both parents. Although exact roles for each sex have not been further investigated for bean geese, other members of the genus divide the labor, e.g., males defend the area and females feed the goslings. (Impe, 1996; Randler, 2007)

  • Parental Investment
  • male parental care
  • female parental care
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female


A European database of bird aging reports the oldest bean goose found was at least 25 years, 7 months old when it was found dead. Only one other bird was reported, and it was shot at age 12 years, 3 months. (Fransson, et al., 2010)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    25.6 years


The main behavior observed in geese is aggression, usually when defending the home territory. Aggression is displayed through three neck postures: erect (vertical), diagonal, and forward. Erect neck position is seen often in Anser species and is accompanied with shaking of the neck feathers. The wings may flutter during this but are not usually fully extended in most species. The forward position generally signals a coming fight. Besides aggression, other behaviors have been documented, and sometimes they differ among subspecies. For example, Anser f. fabalis is thought to be calmer than A. f. rossicus, which was described as "nervous" (Van Impe, 1980). Typically diurnal, geese have been observed to switch to night activity when hunting pressure from humans intensifies. Bean geese nests have been found to nest close to peregrine falcons and rough-legged hawks. These two species act as "prey-protectors," helping defend areas against Artic foxes. (Arzel, et al., 2006; Kharitonov, et al., 2009; Ogilvie, 2010; Payne, 1981; Raveling, et al., 1972)

Home Range

Research indicates that bean geese nest at least 65 m away from other geese, yet will nest as close as 10 m to peregrine falcon pairs. (Kharitonov, et al., 2009)

Communication and Perception

Bean geese have loud calls much like other geese. Described as an "unk unk,"(Stokes and Stokes, 2010) the deep squawk is thought to be lower in A. fabalis serrirostris, the Russian subspecies. Communication in this species has not been well documented, but there is some information from other species in the genus Anser. Greylag geese use calls to keep in contact with one another and to signal when it is time to roost. In bar-headed geese distress calls of the goslings were found to increase with distance from the parents. It is possible that similar modes of communication are used in bean geese. Bean geese are assumed to have good eyesight, as they can become nocturnal when pressured by hunting from humans. (Lamprecht, 1989; Raveling, et al., 1972; Schmitt, 1994; Stokes and Stokes, 2010)

Food Habits

Bean geese are herbivores. They eat grass, seeds, corn (Zea mays), rice (Oryza sativa), barley (Hordeum vulgare), wheat (Triticum aestivum), soy beans (Glycine max), potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), and sugar beets (Beta vulgaris). (Arzel, et al., 2006; Impe, 1996; Mizota and Shimada, 2007; Ogilvie, 2010)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • seeds, grains, and nuts


Humans are the main predators of bean geese, as hunting is a popular sport. Arctic foxes can occasionally threaten bean geese. These foxes tend to attack smaller geese, but will attack nests if easier food sources are not available. Diurnal raptors are also predators of bean geese. (Arzel, et al., 2006; Impe, 1996)

Ecosystem Roles

Muller et al. (1999) found that bean geese and white-fronted geese, spread the virus Avulavirus responsible for Newcastle Disease, which is transmissible to wild and domestic birds, as well as humans. In 2008, this species was confirmed as a host for Cryptosporidium and Giardia duodenalis, both of which have potential impacts on humans. Additional parasites found with in the bean goose include nematodes (Epomidiostomum crami) and parasitic helminths (Amidostomum anseris). (Arzel, et al., 2006; Borgsteede, et al., 2006; Kharitonov, et al., 2009; Müller, et al., 1999; Plutzer and Tomor, 2009; Yoshino, et al., 2009)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • nematodes (Epomidiostomum crami)
  • Newcastle disease virus (Avulavirus)
  • Cryptosporidium
  • Giardia duodenalis
  • helminths (Amidostomum anseris)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Bean geese are hunted for sport and for sustenance. Products such as pillows are made from their feathers. (Impe, 1996)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The most notable impact bean geese have on economics is the yield loss farmers face due to geese grazing on their fields during the winter months. Bruinderick (1989) found dry matter loss reached up to 1100 kg per ha. In 1984, for example, the government of the Netherlands paid €450,000 to compensate farmers for their loss. Muller et al. (1999) found that bean geese spread the virus Avulavirus responsible for Newcastle Disease, which is transmissible to wild and domestic birds as well as humans. Although the health effects on humans are negligible, the threat to the domestic poultry industry can be substantial. (Bruinderink, 1989; Müller, et al., 1999)

Conservation Status

This species is considered to be of least concern on the IUCN Red List, although reports show that populations may be declining. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Great Britain lists A. f. fabalis, as a "red" subspecies and A. f. rossicus as "amber." Red species are those of greatest conservation concern, with marked declines in breeding range or breeding populations over long time periods. Amber-listed species may be experiencing moderate decline or may be extremely limited ranges. Anser f. rossicus is listed as such due to low breeding population numbers. The IUCN lists major threats as habitat change or degradation (i.e., loss of wetlands, draining of lakes, etc.), pollution (i.e., oil spills), and pesticides that target agricultural pest species. ("Anser fabalis (Bean Goose)", 2013; "Bean Goose Anser fabalis", 2012)


Emily Clark (author), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.

causes or carries domestic animal disease

either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


Coniferous or boreal forest, located in a band across northern North America, Europe, and Asia. This terrestrial biome also occurs at high elevations. Long, cold winters and short, wet summers. Few species of trees are present; these are primarily conifers that grow in dense stands with little undergrowth. Some deciduous trees also may be present.


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


A terrestrial biome with low, shrubby or mat-like vegetation found at extremely high latitudes or elevations, near the limit of plant growth. Soils usually subject to permafrost. Plant diversity is typically low and the growing season is short.


uses sight to communicate


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