Lesser White-fronted Goose a species of the artic geese

Another species of the Grey Geese is the Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus). The breeding areas of the Lesser White-fronted Goose are the southern parts of the Tundra zone and the Eurasian forest tundra stretching from the North of Norway far across Russia throughout Siberia to Chukotka on the most eastern part of Siberia. Over the entire area the abundace of the Lesser White-fronted Goose is more than sketchy and the geese are to be found in only few localities.

The preferred breeding area of the Lesser White-fronted Goose are areas of rugged relief such as river valleys, hilly landscape and also in foothill areas, preferrably in landscapes with alternating patches of meadows and dense bush areas.

In General, the species is classified as vulnerable on the global Red List.

Global Population of the Lesser White-fronted Goose

The global population is estimated at 16,000-27,000 individuals, with only a small European population covering only 250-400 individuals. These European populations are mostly centred on the Northeast of Russia with only about 100 individuals breeding in Fennoscandia.

grey geese lesser white-fronted goose anser erythropus
Grey Geese: Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus) in winter in Europe

Characteristics of the Lesser White-fronted Goose


Order: Anseriformes
Familiy: Anatidae
Sub-family: Geese (Anserinae)
Genus: Grey Geese (Anser)
Species: Lesser White-fronted Goose

Scientific Name: Anser erythropus

Names and Synonyms of the Lesser White-fronted Goose

  • German: Zwerggans
  • French: Oie naine
  • Spanish: Ánsar chico
  • Portuguese: Ganso-pequeno
  • Italian: Oca lombardella minore
  • Dutch: Dwerggans
  • Czech: Husa malá
  • Slovak: Hus malá
  • Hungary: Kis lilik
  • Romania: Gârliță mică, Gârliță mică, Gârliţă mică
  • Bulgaria: Малка белочела гъска
  • Serbia: Mala lisasta guska
  • Danish: Dværggås
  • Norwegian: Dverggå
  • Swedish: Fjällgås
  • Finland: Kiljuhanhi
  • Polish: Gęś mała
  • Russian: Пискулька
  • Turkey: Küçük sakarca
  • Arabic: اوزة غراء صغيرة
  • Hebrew: אווז קטן, אוז זוטר אוז קטן
  • Azerbaijan: Ağqaş qaz

Distribution – Movements – Wintering

Distribution: Lesser White-fronted Geese breed in across large parts of the subpolar Eurasian zone, northern Scandinavia and further eastwards to east Siberia.

Movements: migrational

Wintering: Lesser White-fronted Geese winter in Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldavia, northern coastal areas of the Black Sea, Turkey, Syria, Irak, Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the southern Caspi area and in southeast Asia. We also find the Lesser White-fronted Geese in the entire Waddensea zone, in North Sea coastal areas of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. Also, inland sigthings are possible in the wider Lower Rhine area and along the Dutch-German border.


The Lesser White-fronted Goose breeds in forest tundra, prefers hilly areas above tree line. During migration and winter on meadows, croplands and similar areas. Rarely in coastal areas.


Diurnal. Separate sleeping and feeding areas.

lesser white-fronted goose
Lesser White-fronted Goose

Field Characteristics of the Lesser White-fronted Goose

The Lesser White-fronted Goose can be confused for a White-fronted Goose. Though, it is smallerand has a shorter neck. Very extensive white blaze that reaching the forecrown.

The body (plumage) is more brownish or rather darker than with the White-fronted Goose. Wings are narrow. Lesser White-fronted Goose shows an agile flight with fast wing beats. However, these characteristics are by no means sufficient for final identification.

There should be an yellow to orange eyering, may even appear as whitish with some individuals. Considering that, whith the exception of the Greylag Goose, all other grey geese do not show any such feature, this is probably the best identification feature.

Bill: shorter and flesh-coloured to pink, more pink-coloured with juveniles
Legs: orange, more yellowish with juveniles

Measurements and Voice

Size: 65-86 cm
Weight: 1,600-2,500 g, maximum of 3,000 g
Wingspan: 135-165 cm
♂: 370-388 mm
♀: 361-387 mm

Voice: Similar to White-fronted Goose but more high pitched in character. Though, it appears that this species is not as chatty as its larger brethren.

lesser white-fronted goose
Lesser White-fronted Geese

Breeding of the Lesser White-fronted Goose

Sexually mature: during its second year.

First-time breeding: between the second and third year:

Mating: Mainly in April, but also until May at the latest. Lifelong monogamous breeding pair. Though, after losing a partner, the other bird is looking for a new mate again.

Clutches per breeding season: 1 clutch
Begin of laying: from end of May
Breeding season: from end of May and during June, but no later than early July

Nest: mostly elevated on a platform made from plants.

Clutch, Eggs and Measurements

Clutch: 4-6 eggs, femal is tasked with incubating.
Eggs: long-oval cream-coloured eggs.
Length: 69.0-84.5 mm
Width: 43.0-50.5 mm
Weight of fresh egg: Ø 75 g
Measurement data according to Tugarinow (1941) in S.M. Uspenski

eggs of lesser white-fronted goose
Eggs of Lesser White-fronted Goose: By Klaus Rassinger und Gerhard Cammerer, Museum Wiesbaden – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38182271

Incubation, Fledging and Dependency

Recurrent clutches: there are no recurrent clutches recorded. Besides, it is most unlikely considering the extremely short window for breeding. This period lasts only from the begin of snowmelting to early July.

Laying Interval: 48 hours
Begin of incubating: after laying last egg
Incubation: (25) 2627(-28) days

Hatching: asynchronous over several hours.

Fledging: the goslings leave the nest as soon as their downs have dried and follow their parents. Goslings can look for food from day one and learn from their parents. They fledge after 35-40 days.

Dependency: Juveniles stay with the family during migration and winter until the next breeding season starts. Families can clearly be identified in the winter areas because families always stay together.

lesser white-fronted goose
Lesser White-fronted Geese feeding in winter


Food – Diet: purely plant-based diet. In winter quarter Lesser White-fronted Geese feed on grass and plant material.

Longevity: between 8-9 years.

Mortality: no recorded data

Enemies and Threats: wolves, polar fox, dogs, White-tailed Eagle, infections

lesser white-fronted goose
Lesser White-fronted Goose


Bauer, Hans-Günther, Bezzel, Einhard et. al. (HG), Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 1, Sonderausgabe 2012, Aula Verlag, Wiebelsheim

Bauer, Hans-Günther, Bezzel, Einhard et. al. (HG), Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 3, Literatur und Anhang, Aula Verlag Wiebelsheim, 2. vollständig überarbeitete Auflage 1993

Bezzel, Einhard, Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Non-Passeriformes, Band 1, Aula Verlag Wiesbaden, 1985

Bruun/Singer/König, Der Kosmos Vogelführer, Franck’sche Verlagshandlung Stuttgart, 5. Auflage 1982

Glutz von Blotzheim, Urs et. al (HG), Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 2, Anseriformes (1. Teil), Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, Wiesbaden, 1979, Nachdruck der Auflage von 1968

Svenson, Lars et. al, Der Kosmos Vogelführer, Franck-Kosmos Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Stuttgart, 2. Auflage 2011

Svenson, Lars, Mullarney, Killian et al, Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europa, HarperCollins Glasgow, Second Edition 2010

Uspenski, S.M. Dr. habil, Die Wildgänse Nordeurasiens, Die Neue Brehm Bücherei, Band 352, A. Ziemsen Verlag Wittenberg Lutherstadt, 1965

Bundesamt für Naturschutz: Nationaler Vogelschutzbericht 2019 gemäß Artikel 12 Vogelschutzrichtlinie, report dat from section Wi-Z winter guests (pdf download)

lesser white-fronted goose
Lesser White-fronted Goose in winter

Image Credits

Featured image of Lesser White-fronted Goose: by ©Raymond Loyal

Eggs of Lesser White-fronted Goose: By Klaus Rassinger und Gerhard Cammerer, Museum Wiesbaden – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38182271

All other post images of Lesser White-fronted Goose: by ©Raymond Loyal

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Published by Raymond Loyal Photography

Bird, Nature, Art and Architecture Photographer, Traveller, Blogger.

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