Kingdoms / Animalia / Craniata / Aves / Anseriformes / Anatidae / Anser / Species
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

Oie naine (French)
Zwerggans (German)
Ánsar chico (Spanish)
Ánsar careto chico (Spanish)
Ganser frente blanca chico (Spanish)
Dwerggans (Dutch)
Fjällgås (Swedish)

Names for newly-hatched

Cygnet, downy.

Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B1, B2, B3, B4, B8, B19, B25, B26, B27

Aviculture references:
B7, B29, B30, B31, B40, B94, B95, B96, B97, B108, B128.w1, B129
D1, D8

Other references: B44.9.w1

(UK Contacts)

(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

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Aviculture Information


General information:
  • Northern (True) Geese are generally hardy and easy to manage. They are usually gregarious and many species may be kept in flocks, however they tend to be territorial and aggressive in the breeding season and some may need to be maintained in separate pens. It is often possible to keep small ducks with pairs of geese, unless the individual goose pair is particularly pugnacious. They should always be provided with adequate water for swimming.
  • For a single pair of geese a total pen area of 300m² (or 200m²  for smaller species, e.g. Branta ruficollis - Red-breasted goose), with at least 20% of this area water is suggested, although more water should be provided if possible in a larger pen (D1).
  • Geese are grazers and should have access to good short grass (less than 3 inches, 7.5cm long) for grazing. When grass is scarce, it may be supplemented with greenfood such as cabbage, lettuce etc.; alfalfa pellets have also been used for this purpose. Additional grain and pellets should be given, with a change to breeder pellets in the breeding season, at which time less or no grain may be fed. Breeding success may be decreased if these species are allowed to become too fat and this can be problematic particularly for the species which normally breed in the high Arctic.
  • Goslings may be parent hatched and reared, although being mainly terrestrial they are more vulnerable to predation than are cygnets. Whether parent or hand-reared, goslings should be provided with unlimited grazing and other green food such as chopped lettuce, as well as starter crumbs.
  • Geese species may hybridise with one another, but this is not usually a problem if they are well paired before being mixed with other birds.

(B7, B29, B30, B40, B94, B95, B108, B128.w1, B129, D1)

Species-specific information:

  • Lesser white-fronted geese are hardy, easily managed and attractive. They prefer large lakes with good-quality water. They may be kept as pairs, or in small groups if sufficient grass is available. These geese are not aggressive, and may be kept with small ducks. Aggression towards humans reported from one pair (B97). Good grazing will provide most of their food, also feed wheat, pellets, greenfood, bread: plenty of green food should be available. 
  • These geese are relatively easy to breed. Eggs laid from end of April to June, in quiet spots such as in long grass, under bushes or on islands; they will also use nest boxes. Parent rearing is usually successful; goslings require shelter from hot sun and a dry place for shelter from prolonged rain (may need to be driven into a dry place for the night).
  • Pair-bonds are strong once formed, but unmated birds may pair with all other Anser spp., as well as the smaller Branta spp.; these geese are best maintained apart or with species which are not closely related.

(B7, B29, B31, B96, B97, B129).

Aviornis UK Ringing Scheme suggested average closed ring size: N 13.0mm (some males 18.0mm) (D8).

Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length 26-34 inches, 53-66cm (B3, B1)
Adult weight General 1300-2300g (B1)
Male 1440-2300g (B3); 4.3-5.0 lbs. (B8)
Female 1300-2150g (B3); 3.0-4.7 lbs. (B8)
Newly-hatched weight  
Growth rate  

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Adult Bill Male Pink.
Variations (If present) --
Eyes (Iris) Male Dark brown. Distinctive yellow eye-ring.
Variations(If present) --
Juvenile Bill Pink
Eyes (Iris) Dark brown. Distinctive yellow eye-ring.

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Adult Male Orange.
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Orange.

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Adult Male Head and neck brown with furrows down neck; distinctive white front to head (slightly more extensive than Anser albifrons - Greater White-fronted goose).

Breast and abdomen buff-brown with black bars. Flanks brown with paler feather edges and white line along upper edge of flank. Ventral region and tail-coverts white, tail and rump dark grey with pale tail border.

Upperparts grey-brown with pale feather edges; flight feathers blackish, wing coverts ashy-brown.

Generally slightly darker than Anser albifrons - Greater White-fronted goose.

Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Lacks black belly bars, white on head.

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

General: Upperparts dark brown, underparts yellowish
Bill: Grey.
Feet: Grey.

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Reproductive Season

Time of year Begins late May/June.
No. of Clutches One.

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Nest placement and structure

On hummocks, sometimes in scrub but often in the open. Often re-use previous year's sites. Vegetation with shallow depression lined with grass, moss and down.

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 4-6 (B1)
Range 2-8 (B1); 4-6 (B8)
Egg Description Pale yellow-white. Size: 76 x 49mm. Weight: 100g (B3).

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25-28 days (B1, B8).

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35-40 days (B1, B8)

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Sexual Maturity

Males Three years old, occasionally two years old.
Females Three years old, occasionally two years old.

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Feeding Behaviour

Adults --
Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building Single pairs nest alone: nests widely dispersed.
Incubation By female, with male guarding.
Newly-hatched Guarded by both parents, female broods when small.

Remain with parents until following breeding season.

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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific Gregarious except in breeding season when widely scattered.
Inter-specific Sometimes mix with Anser albifrons - Greater White-fronted goose.

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Sexual Behaviour

Strong, permanent pair bonds.

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Predation in Wild


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Activity Patterns

Roost at night in flocks on water outside breeding season.
Circadian Diurnal.

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Natural Diet


Basically vegetarian, eating green parts of grasses and other plants.

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal Breeding: Arctic Eurasia. Winter: mainly coastal plains of Caspian Sea and Black Sea, and in eastern China.

Also mixes with Anser albifrons - Greater White-fronted goose and migrates further west: regularly found in Britain in winter.


Occasional and Accidental




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Open tundra, lakes, ponds, and also alpine habitats.

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Intraspecific variation


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Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Declined over the last century (B1). Vulnerable (B44.9.w1).

CITES listing --
Red-data book listing Vulnerable (W2).
Threats Loss of habitat and hunting, but major reason for decline unknown (B44.9.w1).

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Captive Populations

Commonly kept and bred (B8)..

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