THE RED-BREASTED GOOSE
Looks: The Red-breasted Goose is the smallest and one of the most beautiful geese, due to its striking colours – chestnut-red foreneck, breast and cheek patch, separated from black upper and underparts with conspicuous white lines.
Breeding location: The species breeds on the Taimyr, Gydan and Yamal peninsulas, in the Russian tundra.
Breeding habits: It nests in loose groups, where breeding success may depend on nesting Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) and Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiaca) providing protection from terrestrial predators. Successful breeding seasons are also associated with good lemming years, when predators are sated by the lemming population and therefore predation of geese is much lower.
Migration timing: Autumn migration starts in mid–September, with birds reaching Kazakhstan by the end of September. The spring migration starts in March. In early May, the birds reach the Kazakh uplands and by early June have reached the breeding grounds
Migration flyway: During the autumn migration the majority of the population, travel on to the western Black Sea coast, principally in the Dobrudzha region of Romania and Bulgaria (80-90%), but increasingly in the Ukraine and even Southern Russia during mild winters. They arrive in small flocks in November-December, while larger numbers are recorded later in the winter, depending on the weather conditions. A few may continue south to the Aral Sea, while the majority travel south-west towards the Caspian. Small flocks may remain to winter on the Caspian Sea coast in Azerbaijan while others may visit Greece and occasionally very small numbers reach Hungary, Turkey, Iraq and Iran. The Red-breasted Geese are usually mixed with greater white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons) flocks.
Although three or four key staging areas are known, there are probably several undiscovered sites along the flyway.
Wintering ground: On the main wintering sites in Romania and Bulgaria the geese now feed on agricultural land dominated by winter wheat and barley, maize stubble, some pasture grasses, rape and spilt grain. The birds periodically fly to coastal lakes to drink. These lakes, situated up to 50 km from the feeding areas, are also used as night-roosts. The proximity of drinking and roosting sites to feeding areas may influence winter distribution. In Bulgaria, Red-breasted Geese roost on water; usually in the middle of lakes, but occasionally, or in times of high hunting pressure and calm conditions, on the sea. When the lakes freeze they roost on the ice.
In 2013/14, 80-90% of the wintering population is concentrated at five major roost sites around the northwest Black Sea coast. These include two of the Project sites, the IBAs of Shabla and Durankulak in Bulgaria.