Bean Goose

The Bean Goose (Anser fabalis) is a medium-large goose which breeds in northern Europe and Asia. Winter migration is made further south.

The bill is black at the base and tip, with an orange band across the middle. The legs and feet are also bright orange. The upper wing-coverts are dark brown, as in the White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) and the Lesser White-fronted Goose (A. erythropus), but differing from these in having narrow white fringes to the feathers.

It gets its English and scientific names from its habit of grazing in bean fields in the winter (Latin for bean is “faba”).

There are five subspecies, with complex variation in body size, bill size and pattern. Typically, size increases from north to south as well as from west to east. Some ornithologists split them into two species depending on the breeding habitat, whether in forest bogs on the subarctic taiga, or on the arctic tundra. Considerable intergradations exist between the subspecies inside each of the two groups, but much less between the two groups.

  • Taiga Bean Goose (Anser fabalis sensu stricto)
    • Anser fabalis fabalis. Scandinavia east to the Urals. Large; bill long and narrow, with broad orange band.
    • Anser fabalis johanseni. West Siberian taiga. Large; bill long and narrow, with narrow orange band.
    • Anser fabalis middendorffii. East Siberian taiga. Very large; bill long and stout, with narrow orange band.
  • Tundra Bean Goose (Anser serrirostris, if treated as a distinct species)
    • Anser fabalis rossicus. Northern Russian tundra east to the Taimyr Peninsula. Small; bill short and stubby, with narrow orange band.
    • Anser fabalis serrirostris. East Siberian tundra. Large; bill long and stout, with narrow orange band.

The call is a loud honking. This call is higher pitched in the smaller subspecies.

The closely related Pink-footed Goose (A. brachyrhynchus) has the bill short, bright pink in the middle, and the feet are also pink, the upper wing-coverts being nearly of the same bluish-grey as in the Greylag Goose. In size and bill structure, it is very similar to Anser fabalis rossicus, and in the past was often treated as a sixth subspecies of Bean Goose.