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< >  Branta ruficollis - Red-breasted goose (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

Bernache ā cou roux (French)
Rothalsgans (German)
Barnacla cuelliroja (Spanish)
Ganso de pecho rojo (Spanish)
Roodhalsgans (Dutch)
Rödhalsad gås (Swedish)
Bernicla ruficollis

Names for newly-hatched

Gosling, 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.

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

Other References

B44.9.w1, B138
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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 300m˛ (or 200m˛  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:

  • Red-breasted geese are winter-hardy, easy to keep, very decorative, unaggressive and mix well with other species. Large enclosures with good grazing and clear cold water are preferred. Good grazing will provide most of their food, although grains, pellets, bread and greenfood should also be provided.
  • This species can be difficult to breed; good grazing area and good sized water area suggested to encourage breeding. They nest on the open in short grass, also less commonly under bushes, in huts or on islands. Eggs are laid mid June to July and may be parent-incubated, or if the risk of predation is high, a broody hen or incubator may be preferred, although parent rearing is advisable where possible.
  • These geese may pair with other geese species if no mate of their own species is available. Hybrids have been reported with Anser albifrons - Greater white-fronted goose and Anser rossii - Ross's goose (B97).

(B29, B31, B96, B97, B108,B129)

Aviornis UK Ringing Scheme suggested average closed ring size: M 12.0mm (D8).

Management Techniques

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length 21-22 inches, 53-55cm (B3); 53-56cm (B1)
Adult weight General 1150-1625g (B1)
Male 1315-1625g (B3); mean 3 lbs. (B8)
Female 1150g (B3); mean 2.4 lbs. (B8)
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

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Adult Bill Male Black.
Variations (If present) --
Eyes (Iris) Male Dark brown.
Variations(If present) --
Juvenile Bill Black.
Eyes (Iris) Dark brown.

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

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Adult Male Head and hindneck black with white oval patch between eye and bill. Behind and below eye a larger bright chestnut patch, surrounded by white which extends as a line down the neck. Ventral neck and breast bright chestnut with white line separating breast from rest of body.

Abdomen and flanks black, with broad white upper flanks and broadly black-and-white striped hind flanks. Ventral area and tail-coverts white. Upperparts black Wings black with white tips to median and greater coverts forming two white lines.

Variations (If present)  
Juvenile Duller, white spotting on sides, chestnut areas less well defined.

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

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

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Reproductive Season

Time of year Begins June.
No. of Clutches --

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Nest placement and structure

On steep ground in association with raptor (Peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus and Rough-legged buzzard Buteo lagopus) and snowy owl nests. Shallow nest of vegetation with a lining of down.

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 6-7 (B1); 4-5 (B8).
Range 3-7 (B1, B8).
Egg Description Cream. Size: 71 x 49mm, 76g (B3)..

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23-25 days (B1, B8).

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35-40 days (B8).

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Sexual Maturity

Males Three to four years old.
Females Three to four years old.

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Feeding Behaviour

Adults Grazes on land.
Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building In small colonies, often near raptor nests.
Incubation By female.
Newly-hatched Tended by both parents.


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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific Gregarious.
Inter-specific Nest near raptors and snowy owls as a protection against Arctic foxes.

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Sexual Behaviour

Strong permanent pair bonds.

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Predation in Wild

Arctic foxes. Also snowy owls.

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Activity Patterns

Roost on water at night.
Circadian --

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Natural Diet


Basically vegetarian. Grasses, sedges and aquatic plants (leaves, stems, green parts). Winter: also grain, tubers and sprouting cereals.

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Animal matter important.

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)


Breeding: Siberian tundra, mainly Taymayr Peninsula.

Winters around Black Sea (mainly Romania, Bulgaria), also around Caspian Sea and Aral Sea; small numbers to Greece and Turkey.

Occasional and Accidental

Stragglers to western Europe particularly Britain and Netherlands (in Anser albifrons - Greater white-fronted goose flocks) and recorded south to Israel and Egypt, east to China as vagrants.



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Breeding: Tundra, near water, on grassy river banks. Winter: often near lakes and reservoirs, on low arable land and marshes, sometimes further from water.

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Intraspecific variation


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Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Declining (B1). Vulnerable (B44.9.w1).

CITES listing CITES II (B1)
Red-data book listing Vulnerable (W2).
Threats Loss of habitat, small range (B44.9.w1).

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Captive Populations

Fairly common in collections (B8).

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