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Red-breasted Goose

Branta ruficollis

  • Family: Waterfowl – Anatidae
  • Appearance: A small goose that is very colourful when observed from nearby, but looks mainly black when viewed from further away.
  • Size: Length 54–60 cm (21–23 in), wingspan 110–125 cm (43–49 in), weight 1–1,5 kg (2.2–3.3 lb).
  • Nest: Nests built in shallow depressions in the ground and lined with grasses, mosses and down.
  • Breeding: Lays 6–7 eggs in June, incubated for 23–25 days. (Little is known about some aspects of the species’ breeding behaviour, including when young birds become able to fly.). Likes to nest in sparse breeding colonies, often near the nests of birds of prey (e.g. rough-legged buzzards or peregrine falcons), evidently to deter predators.
  • Distribution: Nests on the tundra of ventral Siberia east of the River Ob as far as the Taimyr Peninsula. In Finland mainly seen among flocks of other goose species during the migrating season for arctic water birds. Winters around the Black Sea. The species is not well known to scientists, and its numbers have evidently declined in recent decades. In the mid 1950s its global breeding population was estimated at 50,000 individuals, but by 2003–2005 its numbers had declined to around 38,500, and it is classified as endangered globally.
  • Migration: Seen in Finland during autumn migration Sept–Oct and more often in spring between the end of April and the beginning of June.
  • Diet: Various plants, and also seeds left in fields of stubble. Readily grazes on dry land.
  • Calls: High-pitched honks.
  • Endangerment: European red list status Near threatened, globally Vulnerable.

Red-breasted Geese are small, and their colouring is very exotic when viewed close. When seen in good light they are easily identified, but from further away they can look uniformly dark. They are smaller than Brent Geese, with thick necks and very short beaks. Their backs are almost black, and their wings have two white stripes. Their flanks and rear underparts are white. Their bellies are black, but their breasts, throats and cheeks are a deep reddish brown. These reddish markings are lined with narrow white markings. Their napes and heads are mostly black, with a white spot between their eyes and beak. Young birds resemble adults, but their darker markings are more brownish, and their cheek spots and neck stripes are less pronounced than those of adults. Their necks and legs are black, and their irises are reddish brown. Red-breasted Geese are lively, and have striking high-pitched calls.

Red-breasted Geese are widely kept in collections. Some of the birds encountered in Finland may well be escapees from such waterfowl collections.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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