The Red-breasted Goose is a rare and extremely beautiful species with colorful plumage. It is an averagely big bird that measures 1058 to 1650 g in weight. It is 55 cm in length and 116-135 cm in wingspan. There is no sexual dimorphism. The Red-breasted Goose is easily distinguished by its red, black, and white plumage. The lower part of the breast, the top of the head, and the back of the neck of the adults are black. There is a white oval spot between the bill and the eyes. The front part of its neck and the upper part of the breast are red-brown. Its chest is separated by a thin white stripe, and there is another white stripe on both sides. Its belly and its plumage are white, its legs and its short bill are black. The newly-hatched chicks are dark brown on top and white underneath. The longevity of the Red-breasted Goose is 15 years.
Distribution and Habitat
The Red-breasted Goose is the smallest wild goose that is found in the northern parts of Europe and Asia. It is a palearctic species that breeds in the tundra and forest-tundra of the Yamal, Gydan, and Taymyr Peninsula, and winters at the Black Sea coasts of Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria. It inhabits coastal lagoons, freshwater lakes, coastal areas, arable lands with winter wheat production, etc.
Almost all of the Red-breasted Goose global population which is about 50 000 birds winters in Dobrudzha and can be monitored in Bulgaria and Romania from November to March. From October to November it can be seen in the valley of Svishtov and Belene. When it is relatively cold individual flocks come to the Burgas lakes and to other water basins in the interior of the country.
In Bulgaria the Red-breasted Goose spends the night in the water- usually in the middle of lakes that are located not more than 50 km from their feeding areas. When the hunting season is at its height or the sea is calm, it spends the night in the sea. When the lakes are frozen, they spend the night on the ice.
The Red-breasted Goose is a migratory species. In order to get to the west coast of the Black Sea it flies about 6000 km through northern Kazakhstan and southern Russia. During migration they often fall prey to hunters and are disturbed at their resting and feeding sites. When they spend too much time flying in search of more peaceful territories, they get exhausted and cannot gather the energy reserves they need to get back to Siberia. In Siberia they often fall prey to polar foxes and other predators.
The Red-breasted Goose feeds mainly on vegetable food- grass, seeds, maize and wheat grains, wheat leaves. In Bulgaria and Romania, which are its main wintering sites, it feeds in arable lands with winter wheat and barley, and in stubble fields with harvested maize.
The Red-breasted Goose is a monogamous bird. It forms small colonies around the nests of predatory birds and builds its nest on the ground. It lays from 4 to 6 eggs and only the female incubates. It has one offspring per year. When the chicks hatch, they are developed enough to move and eat independently.
According to IUCN its status is Vulnerable, and in Bulgaria according to the Red Data Book it is also Vulnerable. Accordingly the Red-breasted Goose and its habitat are protected under the Biological Diversity Act. A project called “Conservation of the Wintering Population of the Globally Threatened Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis) in Bulgaria” started between 2010 and 2015. The project is funded by the LIFE + Programme of the European Commission and is in partnership with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT, UK), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB, UK), Hunting and Fishing Association- Shabla, and agricultural co-operative “Kirilovi Ltd”.