Record Numbers of Lesser White-fronted Geese Observed in Finland on Spring Migration

Bonn, 31 May 2017 – This spring a record number of Lesser White-fronted Geese (Anser erythropus) were observed at the traditional staging area on the Bothnian Bay Coast near the city of Oulu in northern Finland. Observers counted at least 121 individuals at Siikajoki, which is the highest number observed since 1963.

The small Fennoscandian Lesser White-fronted Goose population is recognized as Critically Endangered within the European Union, and is currently estimated to number some 30 breeding pairs. It is the most threatened breeding bird in the Nordic countries. Illegal killing, habitat loss and disturbance, as well as the expansion of Red Fox populations in the breeding areas constitute the main threats to the species.

Following decades of decline the population has, however, slowly started to recover. The 121 individuals counted in Finland are still a far cry from the 10.000 birds that are estimated to have migrated through the area only some 100 years ago, but things are moving in the right direction.

“It is really fantastic to witness the burgeoning growth of the Fennoscandian population, which comes as the result of many years of dedicated international conservation efforts throughout its flyways. The important thing now is to step up our efforts to save this population, which remains extremely vulnerable”, says the Chair of the Finnish Lesser White-fronted Goose Working Group, Dr. Petri Lampila.

The spring monitoring in the Oulu region is the longest consistent monitoring series which exists for the species and was set up in 1985 by the Finnish Lesser White-fronted Goose Working Group, which is run by WWF Finland. Today the work is carried out in cooperation between WWF Finland and Parks & Wildlife Finland (Metsähallitus) with support from the Finnish Ministry of Environment.

The geese have now left the Finnish coastal meadows and have continued their migration north to their staging grounds at the Porsangerfjord in northern Norway, where they are waiting for the breeding lakes in the mountains to be free of snow and ice. The monitoring baton has thus been passed on from Finland to the colleagues at the Norwegian Ornithological Society.

The AEWA International Single Species Action Plan for the Lesser White-fronted Goose was adopted at the 4th Session of the Meeting of the AEWA Parties in 2008, and serves as the international framework for the conservation of the species within the Western Palearctic. The inter-governmental AEWA Lesser White-fronted Goose International Working Group, convened by the UNEP/AEWA Secretariat in 2009, coordinates the implementation of the Action Plan and prioritizes conservation action across the flyways within the AEWA range. The Working Group is currently chaired by Estonia and supported by a coordinator situated at the UNEP/AEWA Secretariat.

Most recent international conservation efforts for the Fennoscandian population include the completion of an EU LIFE+ project “Safeguarding the Lesser White-fronted Goose Along its European Flyways”, which tackled - in particular - the threat posed by illegal killing at the key wintering sites for the species in northern Greece.

For more information regarding the monitoring results in Finland and Norway, please visit http://piskulka.net/, as well as the WWF Finland press release (in Finnish only).

For more information on the AEWA Lesser White-fronted Goose International Working Group, please contact the Working Group Coordinator at the UNEP/AEWA Secretariat, Nina Mikander.

Last updated on 31 May 2017

Type: 
News item
Species: 
Anser erythropus
Species group: 
Birds