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Range States


Lesser White-fronted Geese belonging to the Western palearctic population (consisting of the Fennoscandian and Western main sub-populations) occur regularly in the following 22 countries within the AEWA area: Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. These so-called "Principle Range States" are listed in the AEWA Single Species Action Plan for the Lesser White-fronted Goose and have the major responsibility for the implementation of the Action Plan. Subsequently, these range states are all members of the AEWA Lesser White-fronted Goose International Working Group, charged with coordinating the international implementation of Lesser White-fronted Goose conservation measures.

Original data © BirdLife Norway, design © Grid-Arendahl

Countries are seen as belonging to the Principle Range States if they host one or more Important Bird Areas (IBAs) for the Lesser White-fronted Goose. For those countries where such Important Bird Areas have not been formally identified other criteria have been used, such as a range state having one or more sites where at least 15 staging and/or wintering individuals are recorded regularly or where a combination of historical counts and recent satellite data provide strong evidence of a country''s importance for the species.

In addition Lesser White-fronted Geese occur as vagrants or irregular visitors in many other countries, often sighted in large flocks of other goose species such as Greater White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons) and Greylag Geese (Anser anser).

Short descriptions of the occurence of Lesser White-fronted Geese in each range state are provided below.

For more up-to-date information on ongoing satellite-tagging and research see the activities section or visit the Portal to the Lesser White-fronted Goose, hosted by the Fennoscandian Lesser White-fronted Goose Project.

[Map layout: Grid-Arendahl, Original data: Norwegian Ornithological Society, WWF Finland, Swedish Association of Hunting and Wildlife Management]



Azerbaijan currently hosts the only known regular wintering site of the Western main Lesser White-fronted Goose sub-population at the Gizil-Agach State Nature Reserve located on the Caspian Sea coast in southern Azerbaijan. In addition to being a key wintering site, it is also thought to be a major stop-over site for Lesser White-fronted Geese migrating south to wintering areas in Iran and Iraq.

Lesser White-fronted Geese are also known to have used other sites in Azerbaijan for staging and/or wintering in the past. During a survey conducted in February 2012 some 300 Lesser White-fronted Geese were sighted at Aggol National Park. More information is needed as to which sites are currently still used by the species.

Following a National Workshop on the conservation of the Lesser White-fronted Goose facilitated by the UNEP/AEWA Secretariat in May 2011, work to draft and adopt a National Action Plan for the species is underway. The National Action Plan will in particular focus on conservation measures to be implemented at Gizil-Agach State Nature Reserve.


Lesser White-fronted Geese occur regularly in small numbers at goose staging and wintering sites in Bulgaria. The species mainly occurs on the Black Sea Coast as well as in the Danube floodplain and roughly 100-150 birds are estimated to stage or winter in Bulgaria scattered among flocks of Greater White-fronted Geese. These individuals are thought to belong to the Western main sub-population.

In addition, satellite-tracking of individuals from Fennoscandia has shown that birds of this sub-population also migrate across Bulgaria to reach their wintering grounds in Greece and possibly also Turkey. Small numbers of Lesser White-fronted Geese have also been observed in the Maritza floodplain which connects to the main wintering area of the Fennoscandian population at the Evros Delta in Greece.


Several sites in Estonia such as the Matsalu Bay region and the Silma Nature Reserve have been identified as critical for the Fennoscandian Lesser White-fronted Goose population. The sites are used by the geese for spring staging and smaller numbers of geese also occur during autumn migration. Estonia has adopted a National Action Plan for the species, which includes measures to protect and manage the identified key sites.


Formerly a host to breeding Lesser White-fronted Geese from the Fennoscandian sub-population, no breeding has been confirmed since 1995 and the current estimate of breeding pairs is 0-5. A re-stocking programme was implemented between 1989 and 1998 but was then suspended due to concerns about the genetic structure of the captive breeding population. The Bothnian Bay Coast close to Oulu is still an important spring staging site for the Fennoscandian Lesser White-fronted Geese. Finland adopted a National Action Plan for the species in 2009.


The species passes through Germany in small numbers. Surveys have shown that the species is still regularly observed in the northern part of the country with a frequency of 50-100 observations per year in past decades. Birds from more than one population migrate through Germany, with some vagrant individuals from the Western main sub-population wintering in Germany amongst other geese. Data from satellite-tagged Fennoscandian birds has also shown that individuals from this population sometimes also pass through Germany during migration. Reintroduced/supplemented birds from the Swedish population have also been recorded in Germany as well as birds possibly released in Finland.


As host to the main wintering areas of the Fennoscandian birds, Greece is one of the most important range states for this sub-population. The birds spend most of the winter months between November and March at the two key sites of Lake Kerkini and the Evros Delta. Other important sites include the Nestos Delta and Lake Ismarida.


Hungary hosts one of the main staging sites for Lesser White-fronted Geese from the Fennoscandian sub-population at Hortobagy National Park. Hortobagy is considered to be one of the best sites for monitoring and assessing the current size of the sub-population. Lesser White-fronted Geese occur elsewhere in Hungary as well - these are most likely individuals belonging to the Western main sub-population.


Lesser White-fronted Geese used to be regular and numerous winter visitors in Iraq and the country is still considered to be one of the main wintering areas of the Western main sub-population. In addition to data from satellite-tracked birds and recent observations of LWfG crossing into Iraq from Syria, pictures procured by the BirdLife International Middle East office of some 30 live LWfG in 2010 - which had been caught and were being offered for sale at a Baghdad market - provide additional proof that the species continues to winter in the country.

Islamic Republic of Iran

Much is still unknown about the occurence of Lesser White-fronted Geese in Iran. Whereas there are records of several thousand birds wintering there in the late 1970s, coverage has since been very sporadic and limited in extent and only small flocks have been recorded. Satellite tracking of birds tagged in Russia confirmed that two individuals wintered either in Iran, or close to the Iranian border with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, during the winter 2006/2007. In addition, eye witness accounts from the Gizil-Agach State Nature Reserve in southern Azerbaijan describe geese following the Caspian Sea coast towards Iran after staging at the Reserve during autumn migration.


The lakes and agricultural land in the Kustanay region in northern Kazakhstan is one of the main stop-over sites for the Western palearctic Lesser White-fronted Goose population both during spring and autumn migration. The entire Western main sub-population is thought to pass through Kustanay during migration and individuals from the Fennoscandian sub-population that have been molting in the Russian tundra also migrate through the area before heading west to their wintering areas in south-eastern Europe. In addition, small flocks and individuals have been recorded in central and southern Kazakhstan during autumn migration.

Following a National Workshop on the conservation of the Lesser White-fronted Goose facilitated by the UNEP/AEWA Secretariat in October 2010, Kazakhstan has proceeded to draft a National Action Plan for the species which is currently awaiting adoption.


Until 2006 there was an unidentified spring staging site for birds from the Fennoscandian population somewhere between Hungary and the next known site on the Estonian coast. Satellite data from an individual tagged in northern Norway in May 2006 finally revealed the Nemunas Delta, on the coast of Lithuania, as the formerly unknown spring staging site. Lesser White-fronted Geese are also thought to have been using the Nemunas Delta as an autumn staging area, but no recent observations can confirm this.


Lesser White-fronted Geese were always rare in the Netherlands. In 1981 a supplementation/reintroduction project was set up in Swedish Lapland to guide the geese via a comparatively safer route to the North Sea countries. Recently, every winter some 80-100 birds are seen in the Netherlands. Birds have been recorded regularly from sites in Friesland, North-Holland, South-Holland and Zeeland. The majority are of Swedish origin. It was estimated in 2005 that approximately 96% of the originally supplemented/reintroduced Swedish birds may winter in the Netherlands.


Almost the entire Fennoscandian sup-population is thought to breed in northern Norway. Norway also hosts one of the most important staging areas for the population at the Valdak marshes. Information from satellite-tagging conducted by the Norwegian Ornithological Society has shown that for the Fennoscandian birds breeding success has a double advantage: not only does successful breeding increase the total population; successful breeders will also remain in Norway with their young when molting and will then follow the straightest migration route to the wintering areas in south-eastern Europe. Non-breeders and birds which fail to breed will, on the other hand, complete a so-called loop migration, migrating to northern Russia to molt and then continuing to the wintering areas via Russia and Kazakhstan where hunting pressure is much more extreme. Norway adopted a National Action Plan for the species in 2009, which highlights the importance of ensuring maximum breeding success of the geese, for example by culling red foxes in the breeding area.

Following a feasibility study on the supplementation/re-introduction of Lesser White-fronted Geese in Norway conducted by the Wetlands and Wildfowl Trust (WWT), Norway has in 2010 and 2011 tested supplementing the wild population with a few individuals from the Swedish captive bred birds of Russian origin in cooperation with the Swedish Hunters' Association and Nordens Ark.


Lesser White-fronted Geese are recorded as very scarce migrants, possibly occurring less frequently in recent years. As part of the flyway of the Fennoscandian sub-population, Poland supports a few staging Lesser White-fronted Geese. Satellite-tagging tracked some of the geese flying over Poland in 1995 and 2006. The latter involved a goose stopping over in Poland before moving on to Lithuania during the same day. In addition, one bird tagged in 1997 spent the winter in Poland and eastern Germany.


An unknown number of Lesser White-fronted Geese, migrating together with Greater White-fronted Geese, pass through south-east Romania. The Lesser White-fronted Geese wintering on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria and Romania, scattered among the flocks of Greater White-fronted Geese, are thought to belong to the Western main sub-population.

Russian Federation

Russia hosts the breeding grounds of the entire Western main sub-population. In addition it is thought that a small part  of the Fennoscandian population may nest on the Kola Peninsula of northwesternmost Russia. The Kanin Peninsula is thought to be a key autumn staging area for the whole Fennoscandian population. A declining trend in breeding pairs has been noted coupled with a contracting distribution, but habitat changes in the breeding areas have so far been minimal.

Satellite tagging and field observations have shown the Ob river valley to be a key migration route to the staging area in the Kostanay region of northern Kazakhstan, and some staging areas are known from the eastern shores of the Sea of Azov. In addition Lesser White-fronted Geese are known to stage in smaller numbers at the Kumo-Manych Depression in Kalmykia in south-western Russia. There is sporadic data from other possible staging areas such as Dagestan.


Sweden is host to a small supplemented/reintroduced Lesser White-fronted Goose population which migrates along a modified flyway to wintering grounds in the Netherlands. Following the decline of the species to near extinction in the 1970s, Swedish researchers released captive bred Lesser White-fronted Geese using Barnacle Geese as foster parents up until 1999. The population is currently estimated to number around 100 individuals, with numbers slowly increasing. In order to reinforce the Swedish population, the Swedish Hunters Association has started a new captive breeding programme with wild birds from the Western main sub-population and is currently testing different methods of releasing captive bred individuals. Sweden adopted a National Action Plan for the Lesser White-fronted Goose in 2011.

Syrian Arab Republic

Following the discovery of a satellite-tagged bird from Russia wintering in Syria, monitoring missions to locate potential key wintering sites in Syria were organized in February in 2007, 2010 and 2011. In 2010 a record number of 72 individuals were counted at Lake Al Jabbul, whereas during the other surveys much smaller numbers (around 7-8 individuals) were sighted. Due to the yearly water fluctuations in many of the Syrian lakes and reservoirs, it is likely that the number of Lesser White-fronted Geese wintering in the country also fluctuates quite highly from year to year. However, the information gathered so far does not indicate that large numbers of Lesser White-fronted Geese currently winter in Syria. More research is still needed, particularly at potential sites along the border to Iraq. In addition, measures to protect the sites confirmed to be used by Lesser White-fronted Geese, such as Lake Al Jabbul, need to be taken as a matter of urgency.


Lesser White-fronted Geese are rare winter visitors, occurring in very small numbers. Satellite data from a tagged individual belonging to the Western main sub-population showed the bird migrating via Turkey to Iraq. Another bird was recorded near the Turkish borders with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran. Observations show that the Fennoscandian Lesser White-fronted Geese wintering in northern Greece, especially the Greek side of the Evros Delta, also use the Turkish side of the delta, and possibly other wetlands in westernmost Turkey.


It is thought that significant numbers of Lesser White-fronted Geese from the Western main sub-population winter at sites along the Eastern Caspian Sea Shore in Turkmenistan. There has been a lack of systematic counts in recent years, but LWfG are recorded occurring in the hundreds as late as 2003. As with the rest of the so-called eastern flyway, hunting pressure on waterbirds is estimated to be extremely high and therefore considered to be the main conservation threat.


The Lesser White-fronted Goose occurs as a migrant and winter visitor, but there is a lack of systematic counts. Almost 600 individuals were counted in Crimea in winter 1999/2000 and 1,000 birds in the Dniester delta. A Lesser White-fronted Goose pair satellite-tagged in northern Norway in May 2006 migrated to the Fennoscandian population’s Greek wintering grounds via Russia, Kazakhstan and the northern shore of the Black Sea, including the North-west Sea of Azov.


It is thought that some Lesser White-fronted Geese from the Western main sup-population migrate along the shores of the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan. Wintering sites close to the Afghanistan and Tajikistan border areas have been documented. The exact size of the wintering population is unknown, but surveys conducted between 2001 and 2005 suggest that numbers are small – probably no more than several hundred.