Chinese Goose Or Swan Goose

23rd June 2010

Distribution: The Swan Goose has an estimated range of some 1,620,000 km2.

Its main breeding grounds are situated on the border area between Russia, Mongolia and mainland China, with totals of 33,000 and 12,000 birds recorded in east Mongolia during surveys in 2003 and 2004 respectively.
Other breeding sites include the lower reaches of the Amur river, north-western Sakhalin Island and Lake Khanka, Russia, western Mongolia and China.

Another population seems to breed in eastern Kazakhstan, around Saisan-Lake and further east, but its current status is unknown. Breeding might also happen in north-eastern North Korea.
The Swan Goose is migratory and winters in North Korea, South Korea, central China, and occasionally in Japan and Taiwan. Key wintering sites lie along the coast of Jiangsu and around the lakes of Poyang Hu and Dongting Hu in the Yangtze basin, China.

The species has been domesticated, and introduced and feral populations occur elsewhere.

Status: The Swan Goose was listed as endangered in the wild, the population declining due to habitat loss and excessive hunting, but new research has shown it to be not as rare as it was believed. Indeed, despite poor breeding success in recent years because of drought, and a growing pressure from habitat loss, particularly owing to agricultural development, and unsustainable levels of hunting, comprehensive surveys in the wintering range have failed to detect evidence of declines of the magnitude predicted.

The overall world population for this goose is estimated at between 60,000 and 80,000 individuals, with significant declines in recent decades. Yet, some very large flocks can still be observed, like at Shahu Lake (part of the Poyang Lake complex) in 2002, and in 2004/5 in the Lower Yangtze Valley where some 61,000 individuals were counted.

The main threats facing the Swan Goose are,in Russia: uncontrolled hunting, and drainage and ploughing of breeding and moulting habitats, as well as disturbance by people and cattle which cause high levels of chick mortality.

In China, agricultural development at breeding grounds causinghas wetland destruction and increased disturbance. Egg collection on Sanjiang plain (China), coupled with habitat loss to agricultural development, has probably resulted in a decline in the numbers of breeding Anatidae there of 90% in the last 30 years. Hunting of waterfowl also remains a serious problem in many parts of China. The Swan Goose's wetland wintering grounds too are under increasing pressure from development and pollution.

Habitat: The Swan Goose is a goose of steppes and mountain valleys. In winter, it grazes on steppes and stubble, sometimes far from water. It may also occur in lowland lakeside marshes, rice-fields, estuaries and tidal flats.

In the breeding season this goose is always near water, frequenting the wetlands in the steppe and forest-steppe zones, including river deltas, river valleys with meadows, the margins of brackish and freshwater lakes. It can even be found in mountainous areas along narrow, fast-flowing rivers.

General habits: The Swan Goose is a migratory species. Recent research involving satellite tagging individuals has revealed that it migrates in stages, stopping at a number of sites en route between breeding an wintering grounds. Birds gather in large flocks to moult in late July prior to migration. They form small flocks outside the breeding season.

This goose, with its aggressive disposition and honking response, makes an excellent "watch dogs". It rarely swims.

Feeding habits: The Swan Goose grazes on sedges. It feeds on aquatic vegetation and insects.

Breeding habits: The Swan Goose breeds near marshes and other wetlands.

Nest: This species uses a ground nest.

Eggs: The female lays 5 to 8 eggs.

Young: Juveniles look rather similar to adults, only duller and lack the whitish face-band.

Call: The Swan Goose utters a prolonged, resounding honk; ending at higher pitch. It also makes repeated, short, harsh notes when alarmed.

Description:. The Swan Goose is large for its genus, measuring some 81–94 cm long (which makes it the longest Anser goose) and weighing between 2.8 and 3.5 kg (the second-heaviest Anser, after the Greylag Goose).

It has a long bi-coloured neck, a long, heavy black bill, a dark brown crown and pale creamy-brownish lower sides of head and foreneck, as well as underparts apart from some belly streaking; the upperparts are brown and the legs are orange. It has a whitish face-band. The sexes are similar, although the male is larger.

The domestic forms (Chinese Goose)are larger and heavier than the ancestral Swan Goose, with a more upright stance. The bill has shortened somewhat and the base has developed a knob. General colouring is similar to the wild type, except in the white variety (White Chinese goose), which has white plumage and an orange bill.

African goose is larger and heavier than the Chinese goose, less upright, with a thicker neck. The African goose has developed a large dewlap at the throat, and a pendulous abdomen.

Did you know: The Swan Goose has been domesticated for more than 2,000 years. Today, its descendents can be found worldwide, and they are especially kept extensively in Europe and North America.

Though the majority of domestic geese are descended from the Greylag Goose, two breeds are direct descendants of the Swan Goose: the Chinese Goose and the African Goose. These breeds have been domesticated since at least the mid-eighteenth century, and vary considerably from their wild parent in appearance, temperament, and ability to produce meat and eggs.

The Swan Goose is legally protected in Russia, Mongolia and South Korea and some provinces in China. Several important sites are protected in Russia, Mongolia and China. In 2006 breeding birds in eastern Mongolia were fitted with satellite transmitters to research winter movements as a component of avian influenza research.

The Chinese Goose is also called: Brown Chinese goose, Grey Chinese goose, White Chinese goose, Swan goose, Domestic swan goose [English]; Schwanengans [German]; Svane Gås , Kinesisk Gås [Danish]; Svan Gås [Swedish]; Svane Gås [Norwegian]; Oie cygnoïde [French]; Ansar Cisnal [Spanish].