A LWfG in front and a WfG in the rear. Copyright Jari Kostet

Portal to the Lesser White-fronted Goose

- by the Fennoscandian Lesser White-fronted Goose project


Translocation/Reintroduction/Reinforcement

Plans and programmes for translocation/reintroduction of LWfG have been debated intensively for many years. The Fennoscandian LWfG conservation project has taken (past and present) a critical stand towards theses programmes for the LWfG for a number of reasons. The most frequently discussed questions are related to genetic disturbance (i.e. genetic composition of the stocks used for reintroduction) and manipulation of flyways. There are many reasons to be critical to both the suitability of the current manipulated population (in Sweden) and the sustainability of ongoing (Sweden) and planned (Germany) programs. Below are some of these reasons described.

NOTE: this page is under review and will be updated during autumn 2015 when a review of the translocation projects have been finalised. It should however be noted that the Swedish reintroduction project seems to be out of control with massive releases the last few years where birds spread out in all directions, not only following the already manipulated migration route to the Netherlands. Similar release attempts were earlier made in Finland and Norway, but these were abondoned when results showed it did not work. Another serious issue is also that the Swedes does not seem able to deal with their establised Barnacle Goose x Lesser-white-fronted Goose hybrid population.

Genetic factors/aspects:
  • Based on studies of captive LWfG populations, hybridisation between LWfG and White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons has occurred during the captive history: the captive LWfG carry the mitochondrial DNA of Anser albifrons (cf. Ruokonen 2001), and evidently, also part of the nuclear DNA of the captive LWfG is inherited from Anser albifrons. Also hybridization with Greylag Goose Anser anser has been proved for the captive stocks used for introductions in Europe.
  • Because the mitochondrial and nuclear DNA of Anser albifrons are not linked in the captive LWfG stocks, eliminating only the individuals with the mitochondrial DNA of Anser albifrons does not solve the problem, because there are also individuals possessing mitochondrial DNA of LWfG, but nuclear DNA of both of the species.
  • Hybridisation between these species in the wild has not been recorded in the DNA studies, even though more than 100 individuals of LWfG and White-fronted Geese have been sampled covering the whole distribution range of LWfG, and despite the fact that the two species occur in mixed flocks during migration and wintering when pair formation is supposed to take place (Ruokonen 2001).
  • Based on the mitochondrial DNA, the wild Fennoscandian LWfG population differs significantly from other LWfG sub-populations and thus the Fennoscandian population is considered as a separate management unit in conservation biology (Ruokonen 2001).
  • The present free flying population in Sweden consists of a mixture of western and eastern LWfG mitochondrial DNA types, with introgression of genes from White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons and Greylag Goose Anser anser.
  • The use of Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis as foster parents when manipulating the migration route has led to a significant level of hybridization between these two species, with also second generation hybrids recorded.
  • Sweden has since 2010 again started releasing birds in the breeding area. These are of supposedly of Russian origin, and released as goslings and 1 year old birds without assistance of Barnacle Goose as foster parents. That this will alter the negative impact of the existing hybrid population is doubtfull all the time the existing hybrids likely have an advantage in lower winter mortality due to the alteration of habitat preferences seen in this population (see below).
  • Manipulation of migration routes:

    Specifically, in addition to original hybrid origin, the Swedish reintroduced/restocked population was manipulated to change its wintering area by the use of Barnacle geese Branta leucopsis as foster parents. As a consequence this population now winters in areas that are not traditional wintering areas, contrary to unsubstantiated claims by reintroduction/restocking stake holders. Another negative side effect of this manipulation is the use of other undesired sites, such as city parks for staging and moulting. Current releases in Sweden of captive birds originating from wild caught Russian breeders do not alter the fact that the Swedish re-stocking project struggle with regular appearance of hybrids, also of LWfG x Barnacle Goose origin.

    Behavioral (and other) aspects:

    To assume that the release of new “pure” birds would swamp the existing hybrids in this population is naïve.  This hybrid population has, contrary to wild LWfG seen in Fennoscandia and Russia, made the transition to feed on cultural habitats/ farmland especially duting winter in the Netherlands & Germany, a trait not shared by wild LWfG and Brent Goose Branta bernicla.  Wild, natural populations of LWfG are habitat specialists, exclusively exploiting natural steppe habitat during winter.

    Present position of the Fennoscandian LWfG conservation project to reintroduction activity:

    Reintroduction projects are not given priority in the International Action Plan for the LWfG published by the Council of Europe in 2008, but are mentioned as a last resort if all other actions fail and only by following the IUCN criteria for translocation/re-introduction. Even the most critically endangered of all LWfG sub-populations, the Fennoscandian breeding population, has still a chance for recovery. One international document providing guidance for the introduction, along with the International Action Plan for LWfG, is the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) guidelines for reintroduction programmes. According to the IUCN guidelines (IUCN/SSC 2013), the captive stock used to restock the wild population should be genetically as close as possible to the wild population that was extirpated from the reintroduction area. This is not the case with the current captive stocks used (or planned to be used) in the LWfG reintroduction programmes in question. Also, according to the IUCN criteria, there should be no remnant wild population in the release area, to prevent spread of disease, social disruption and introduction of alien genes in the wild population. If the reintroduction programmes would be successful by establishing one or more new populations in Fennoscandia (as they naturally aim to), the reintroduced population would relatively soon get in contact with the wild population either on the breeding grounds or along the migration routes.

    ©Kalle Rainio/Tarsiger.com
    First generation hybrid A.erythropus x B. leucopsis, Turku, Finland, 27 May 2008 © Kalle Rainio/Tarsiger.com. Also second generation hybrids have been found in Sweden. Pictures and discussions of these can be found at the Swedish report system for birds.


    In addition to the dubious genetic composition of the captive LWfG stocks, the Fennoscandian LWfG conservation project has stressed repeatedly, that in the present situation the conservation efforts to save the wild populations are very urgent. On the other hand, there is no urgency to pay much effort to – or implement new – reintroduction projects in the present situation, where the genetic suitability of the captive LWfG stocks for reintroduction is at best questionable. Resources spent on the reintroduction projects in the current situation can also be viewed as a waste of the time, effort and resources, that should be directed towards eliminating the threats such as excess hunting, poaching, habitat destruction in the struggle for rescuing the wild LWfG populations and their habitats.

    At present the wild Fennoscandian population increase with >20% per year and as long the ongoing conservation efforts are successful, the Fennoscandian LWfG conservation project strongly warns against any reintroduction projects that may harm or jeopardize the small and vulnerable wild population of LWfG in Europe.


    Lots of Pictures of hybrid birds in Sweden are to found in the Swedish observation system. Since 1991 these hybrid accounts for 14% of all records on Lesser White-fronted Goose in Sweden.



    Publications related to restocking/reintroduction

    Sweden has published an National Action Plan for the Lesser White-fronted Goose, but this does not distinguish between wild and reintroduced birds. The NAP mainly concerns the restocked/reintroduced population with a manipulated migration route.



    Latest sightings of LWfGs with reintroduced or escapee origin

    23 March 2017, Humala, Harku vaald, Harjumaa, Estonia 1 LWfG observed. Seen on the field with White-fronts and Bean Geese. Green colour ring on the leg. Source: Ranno Puumets. Map:

    22 January 2017, Rogowo, Znin, kujawsko-[pomorskie, Poland 1 LWfG observed - 1 Ad. Bird with black neckband A25 Source: Bartosz Krakowski. Map:


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    Photo: Bartosz Krakowski.

    28 August 2016, Kallvatnet, Rana, Norway 4 LWfG observed - 4 juv. All birds stemming from the Swedish reintroduction project had a blue mark on right leg, and on left leg the following: 1) yellow “A”, 2) dark green (or black) “5”, 3) dark green (or black) “7”, 4) yellow “N”. The birds were seeking out the observer. Source: Observed by Benny Sætermo, conveyed by Tomas Aarvak. Map:


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    The birds came to the observer, and photo was taken with mobile camera. Photo: Benny Sætermo.

    28 August 2016, Skuggheia, Rana River, Rana, Nordland, Norway 18 LWfG observed - 18 juv. observed in Rana river by a salmon fisher, at least one bird with satellite transmitter. Photo documentation exist. Source: Benny Sætermo, conveyed by Tomas Aarvak. Map:

    04 May 2015, Klubben, Alvik, Luleå, Norrbotten, Sweden 4 LWfG observed - 4 Ad. Two adult pairs found in a field with 1850 bean geese, 300 greylags, 2 white-fronts, 4 pink-feets, 1 barnacle and 15 Canada geese. Possible Swedish reintro-origin, pending analyses of belly patches. Source: Tomas Aarvak / BirdLife Norway. Map:


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    One of four adults. Photo: Tomas Aarvak.

    19 April 2015, Rupkalviai, Nemunas Delta, Klaipėda, Lithuania 1 LWfG observed - 1 Ad. Rings: L: Yellow (N) R: Red and metal . Source: Boris Belchev _ LWfG research team Lithuania. Map: External


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    A bird was feeding together with GWf and Barnacle Geese at Rupkalviai pastures. Photo: Boris Belchev.

    10 April 2015, Åkersvika, Hedmark, Norway 2 LWfG observed. Colour ringed, one with on left and red + metal on right. The other with white on left and yellow + metal on right. Birds from the Swedish reintroduction project. Source: http://artsobservasjoner.no/fugler. Map: IBA: External

    11 December 2014, Makkevika, Møre & Romsdal, Norway 4 LWfG observed. Source: Jon Bjørnar Larsen. Map: External

    09 October 2014, Innstrandfjæra, Sør-Trøndelag, Norway 1 LWfG observed - 1 juv. Colour ringed (LBNW(8);RBR,M), from the Swedish translocation project. Source: The Norwegian report system for birds.. Map: External

    06 October 2014, Makkevika, Møre & Romsdal, Norway 5 LWfG observed. Source: Kjell Mork Soot / http://artsobservasjoner.no/fugler/. Map: External

    18 September 2014, Makkevika, Møre & Romsdal, Norway 5 LWfG observed. Source: Ola Betten / http://artsobservasjoner.no/fugler. Map: External

    11 September 2014, Makkevika, Møre & Romsdal, Norway 5 LWfG observed. From the Swedish restocking programme. Source: http://artskart.artsdatabanken.no/. Map: External

    07 September 2014, Kårstø, Rogaland, Norway 1 LWfG observed. Yet another wrong flying colour ringed bird from Swedish project, together with 7 greylags. Source: Observed by Odd Einar Svendsen, Dag Leonard Fjeldstad / http://artsobservasjoner.no/. Map: External

    31 August 2014, Makkevika, Møre & Romsdal, Norway 6 LWfG observed - 6 juv. Six ringed birds flying over, one with satellite transmitter. From the Swedish restocking programme. Source: http://artskart.artsdatabanken.no/. Map: External

    24 August 2014, Alnesfjæra, Nord-Trøndelag, Norway 1 LWfG observed - 1 2cy. Observed by Ole Martin Sæterhau. The bird from the Swedish restocking project. Source: http://artskart.artsdatabanken.no/. Map: External

    21 August 2014, Alnesfjæra, Nord-Trøndelag, Norway 3 LWfG observed - 3 juv. From the Swedish restocking project. One with satellite transmitter. Source: http://artskart.artsdatabanken.no. Map: External

    19 August 2014, Fugletårnet, Ørin, Nord-Trøndelag, Norway 3 LWfG observed - 3 juv. Together with 8 greylags, all with color rings: right leg with red above metal, left leg black ring with code. One of the birds has a satellite transmitter. These originate from the Swedish manipulation programme. Source: Jan Eivind Østnes, Rolf Terje Kroglund, Ingvild Buran / Norwegian report system for birds. Map: External

    19 April 2014, Ergavatnet, Rogaland, Norway 1 LWfG observed - 1 Ad. Color ringed. Bird from Swedish reintro-project. Left leg blue with code, right leg yellow ring and metal ring. Source: Martin Dagsland / http://artsobservasjoner.no/. Map:

    16 April 2014, Ergavatnet, Rogaland, Norway 1 LWfG observed - 1 Ad. Color ringed. Bird from Swedish reintro-project. Left leg blue with code, right leg yellow ring and metal ring. Source: Martin Dagsland / http://artsobservasjoner.no/. Map:

    12 April 2014, Rupkalviai, Nemunas Delta, Klaipėda, Lithuania 1 LWfG observed - 1 2cy. A young bird with colour rings on legs (on left tarsus Blue ring with letter A on right leg Yellow and under him a metal ring). Was seen in flock of GWfG and Bernicle Geese flock in Rupkalviai, Ornithological reserve Silute. The birds was against sun, actually the first sign helped identify LWfG from all other geese was rings on legs. Observers: M. Sniaukstiene, J. Morkunas, V. Eigirdas, V. Paskevicius and others LWfG team members. Source: Lithuanian LWfG team, J. Morkunas. Map:


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    2014-04-12, Colour ringed bird in Rupkalviai Ornithological reserve, Silute,Lithuania. Photo: Boris Belchev.

    03 April 2014, Rupkalviai, Nemunas Delta, Klaipėda, Lithuania 1 LWfG observed - 1 Ad. A adult bird probably male spotted in Rupkalviai meadows. Also bird on left leg had a green ring with white inscription 9. This is the first bird of this year in Lithuania. Source: Vytutas Eigirdas, Vytautas Jusys, Julius Morkunas, Rory Crawford. . Map:


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    A LWfG walking in flock of GWfG, in Rupkalviai. The bired is wearing green ring with number "9" Photo: .

    02 April 2014, Rupkalviai, Nemunas Delta, Klaipėda, Lithuania 1 LWfG observed - 1 Ad. A adult bird probably male spotted in Rupkalviai meadows. Also bird on left leg had a green ring with white inscription 9. This is the first bird of this year in Lithuania. Source: Vytutas Eigirdas, Vytautas Jusys, Julius Morkunas, Rory Crawford. Map:

    15 October 2013, Söderfjärden, Vaasa, Ostrobothnia, Finland 1 LWfG observed - 1 2cy. The same bird as seen in Vaasa on 12-13 Oct. Source: Roland Lillkåla / Lintutiedotus. Map: IBA:

    12 October 2013, Uskila, Hollola, Päijänne Tavastia, Finland 1 LWfG observed. Still the same escapee present in the area from 17 September 2013 onwards. Source: Kari Reinikainen / Tiira. Map:

    12 October 2013, Vaskiluoto bridge, Vaasa, Ostrobothnia, Finland 1 LWfG observed - 1 2cy. Extremely tame. A white colour ring with black letters (AA) on left leg, yellow colour ring + Swedish metal ring 9181714 on right leg. Still present on 13 Oct. Source: Matti Maskulin, Jouni Kannonlahti et al. / Tiira. Map: External

    20 September 2013, Suomatka, Hollola, Finland 1 LWfG observed - 1 Ad. The same escapee still present. Source: Pekka Saikko / Tiira. Map:

    19 September 2013, Suomatka, Hollola, Finland 1 LWfG observed - 1 Ad. The same escapee as photographed on 17 September 2013 in Lahti. Source: Pekka Saikko / Tiira. Map:

    17 September 2013, Teivaanranta, Lahti, Finland 1 LWfG observed - 1 Ad. Escapee from Hämeenkoski farm. Source: Observed by Petri Kuhno / Tarsiger.com. Map: External


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    An escapee from Hämeenkoski farm. Note elongated bill which suggests farm/hybrid origin. Photo: Petri Kuhno.

    04 September 2013, Gaulosen, Storøra, Sør-Trøndelag, Norway 1 LWfG observed - 1 juv. Colour ringed. Yellow right leg, blue/light blue left leg. From the Swedish reintroduction project: It was seen together with appr. 500 greylags. Source: Kjetil Aadne Solbakken & Beata Elisabeth B. Solbakken. Map: IBA: External


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    Photo taken by mobile phone through the telescope. Photo: Beata Elisabeth B. Solbakken.

    24 January 2013, Orre, Rogaland, Norway 2 LWfG observed - 2 2cy. Came flying after a flock of pink-footed geese. Source: Bjørn Erik Hellang at Reportsystem for birds, Norway. Map: External

    11 September 2012, Reitbakken, Udduvoll, Gaulosen, Sør-Trøndelag, Norway 1 LWfG observed - 1 Ad. One LWfG in a flock of Greylag Geese, in the southern parts of Gaulosen IBA 11.-12.sep. The LWfG is likely to have a reintroduced origin. Source: Dag Olav Bollingmo, Gunn Frilund among others via http://artsobservasjoner.no. Map: IBA: External

    24 November 2001, Villafafila, Zamora, Spain 1 LWfG observed. Red ring on right tarsus. 1 bird out of 33 from a French-Swedish-German project where they imprinted the birds on ultra light aircraft. They flew the birds from Ôster Malma in Sweden to Bislicher, Germany. Source: Miguel Rouco. Map:


    Norwegian Ornithological Society www.birdlife.orgWWF Finland

    © The Fennoscandian Lesser White-fronted Goose project jointly run by BirdLife Norway and WWF Finland. All paintings by © Jari Kostet.