Showcasing Action for AEWA Priority Species: Red-breasted Goose

Article submitted by Dr. Nicky Petkov, Coordinator of the AEWA International Working Group for the Red-breasted Goose, Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds/BirdLife Bulgaria

Bonn, 30 November 2018 - The Red-breasted Goose is one of the most threatened goose species in the world listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. It is also listed on Annex I of the EU Birds Directive, on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and on Appendices I and II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). The AEWA International Single Species Action Plan for the Conservation of the Red-breasted Goose was adopted at the 5th Meeting of the AEWA Parties in 2012. The AEWA Red-breasted Goose International Working Group was convened by the AEWA Secretariat in 2011 and is coordinated by BirdLife Bulgaria.

“LIFE for Safe Flight” - a project working to turn the tide for the Red-breasted Goose (

The threats faced by this species are among the most pertinent to waterbird conservation, including agricultural changes, hunting and development pressures. High levels of disturbance at roosts and feeding sites are caused by hunting, boating, fishing and deliberate scaring. In addition to threats that result in direct mortality, those causing prolonged disturbance are of considerable concern. Anthropogenic disturbance leads to increased energy expenditure through escape flights, and reduced energy intake through reduced time spent feeding. At an individual level, this means that the geese have worse body condition, which increases the risk of mortality due to starvation and general poor health. Reduced body condition can have knock-on effects by delaying or prolonging migration or even causing mortality on migration. Similarly, breeding productivity can be reduced, if the birds arrive at the breeding ground too late or in too poor condition. At a population level, the effect is equivalent to a reduction in the carrying capacity of the site: fewer geese can be supported as a result of avoidance of potential feeding areas. In some cases, especially where roosts are severely disturbed, geese will abandon an area altogether.

The “LIFE for Safe Flight” project has brought together partners from the five key Range States – the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria, to make a difference for this declining species along the global flyway. The project will involve a suite of actions linked together to achieve the overall objectives focusing on hunting-related problems and building on the success of the Bulgarian LIFE Project that led to the initial implementation of the AEWA Single Species Action Plan. The main objectives of the project are to:

  • Improve knowledge on the importance of specific threats and the migration ecology and current distribution.
  • Engage stakeholders and implement a set of conservation measures to reduce direct and indirect mortality from hunting and disturbance at the key sites along the global flyway.
  • Engage stakeholders to develop management practices for Red-breasted Goose conservation at key sites and enhance conditions for the species.
  • Ensure engagement of communities and stakeholders to enhance community pride in and support for the conservation of Red-breasted Geese.
  • Improve the species’ status and evaluate the effect of the action plan’s implementation, assessed by a comprehensive monitoring system in all range countries along the flyway.

The Red-breasted Goose has a relatively small population and its sensitivity to hunting and disturbance makes it a good ‘umbrella species’ for conservation of waterbirds and wetlands within its range. Although many major roosts are protected, these sites can still be seriously affected by hunting taking place just outside the protected areas. In addition, hunting continues in the feeding areas, which are often not protected. Direct mortality from hunting is a key threat to this species. Significant hunting occurs at sites along the migration flyway in the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, and in the wintering grounds in Bulgaria and Romania. Recent analysis of available information on satellite tagged Red-breasted Geese indicates up to 40 per cent mortality caused by spring and autumn hunting in Southern Russia and Northern Kazakhstan. The Red-breasted Goose also has extraordinarily beautiful plumage making it a publicly recognizable ‘flagship’ species. If the species and the sites it uses can be managed successfully, then a number of other species will benefit, such as the Lesser White-fronted Goose.

AEWA IWG Coordinator said: “This is a unique concerted and coordinated effort across the Red-breatsed Goose’s global flyway aiming to make a difference for a species that has severely declined in the early 2000s. This is significant effort to implement number of actions highlighted in the AEWA Single Species Action Plan and build on the success of the work in Bulgaria which set up the basis for future conservation work. The work on the LIFE Project is supporting the efforts of the AEWA Red-breasted Goose IWG and in partnership with AEWA Secretariat, pioneering training courses based on AEWA documents such as the “Guidelines on Sustainable Harvest of Migratory Waterbirds”, adopted at the last MOP6 in 2015".



Further Information

AEWA International Species Action and Management Plans are one of most vital and practical tools under the Agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of those migratory waterbirds which have been prioritized for coordinated international action. Following extensive and inclusive consultations these Plans are adopted by the Meeting of the Parties and represent the quintessence of AEWA: cooperation across borders for a common defined goal. AEWA International Species Working and Expert groups are subsequently convened by the Secretariat to coordinate and facilitate Action and Management Plan implementation.

The dedicated implementation of International Species Plans often has far-reaching consequences beyond the immediate benefits for the main target species. This includes but is not limited to the restoration and sustainable management of critical sites and wider landscapes, increasing capacity-building and awareness-raising, diminishing illegal killing and ensuring that any use of migratory waterbirds is sustainable as well as providing alternative livelihoods. For more information on how you can support the implementation of AEWA International Species Plans, please contact the UNEP/AEWA Secretariat (Ms. Nina Mikander) or visit the CMS Family Migratory Species Champion Programme website.  

Last updated on 30 November 2018