Bean Goose

Anser fabalis



The Bean Goose is a burly-looking bird, though it is slightly more compact than the Greylag Goose. It is tall with a wedge-shaped yellow and black bill varying in pattern, and a thin neck which is comparable to a swan's. The male is only slightly bigger than the female and adult birds are a deep, chocolate colour, which pales on the breast and belly. The birds' head and upper neck is a dark, charcoal brown, and it has a dark rump, though its tail is in contrast with a thin white band that defines the tail-base. The stern is white and the feathers have pale margins, bars of white appearing as highlights in its wings. Juveniles are similar to adults, though the colours on the bill are duller.


Bean Geese spend winter in open country. Winter roosts are on lakes or flooded meadows with feeding grounds nearby. Feeding grounds are usually in pine forests or birch scrub, on small offshore islands or near pools or streams. Open areas of low, wet tundra are also popular for these geese.


This bird is a fair swimmer but does so less off than most other geese. Its deep brown upperwing and slender neck are distinctive in flight. It is usually quite social, with the exception of when nesting, but its flocks are often smaller than those of other geese. Autumn flocks initially consist of families which are then joined by non-breeders. Flocks leave their roost at dawn and return at dusk, usually flying in 'V' formation or lines.


Grazes on grasses, cereals, clover, potatoes and other crops.


This bird does not breed wild in Britain or Ireland. Families migrate as a unit in autumn, and stay together until the following breeding season. Both parents tend their young.


Strictly a winter visitor, usually 700 individuals spend the season in Britain. Flocks are scattered sparsely and often unpredictably; they're rare in Ireland and are usually found in Norfolk and central Scotland. Severe winter weather is sometimes responsible for an influx of birds from mainland Europe. Families arrive from Scandinavia in late September and early October and depart in March. Sometimes a small number of Bean Geese accompany White-fronted Geese from Russia to Britain.

Observation Tips

This can be a difficult species to find most winters. The most reliable group is a flock that spends winter regularly on the flood-plain of the River Yare in Norfolk.


Quieter than other geese, the Bean Goose gives a nasal cackle, making noises such as 'ung-ank' or an 'ow, ow, ow, ow' call.