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What is a Bean Goose?

By Melanie Smeltzer
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The bean goose is a large to medium-sized bird that breeds throughout northern regions of Europe and Asia. These geese belong to the Anatidae family, and are sometimes split into two separate species: Anser fabalis, or taiga bean goose, and Anser serrirostris, or tundra bean goose. In general, the taiga bean goose is larger than its counterpart, and has a longer, narrower bill. There are also five subspecies that vary in body size, and the size and shape of their bills.

Differing greatly in size depending on type, the bean goose can range from 27 to 36 inches (or 68 to 90 cm) in length, with a wingspan of about 55 to 69 inches (140 to 174cm), and a weight of 3.7 to 8.8 pounds (or 1.7 to 4 kg). These geese will typically have bright orange legs, and a bill that is black at the tip and base, with a narrow or broad stripe of orange along the center. Bean geese bear a dark brown hue, and their feathers are generally fringed in white.

Much as the gray goose is a familiar sight in America, the bean goose is a common bird throughout many areas of Europe and Asia. There is a higher concentration of these birds in northern areas of Asia, Russia, and Scandinavia, as they tend to breed in these regions. Though they were abundant in Britain and Scotland during the early 19th century, they are now considered an uncommon winter visitor, only migrating in small numbers to certain locales. Despite the fact that these geese are relatively rare in many areas, as of 2011 their conservation status was rated as “least concern,” as their numbers were plentiful and showed no sign of decline.

In general, these birds can be seen in small pods, or groups, around flooded fields and wet grasslands. They are not usually social birds, and typically prefer to feed and roost in open areas and fields not inhabited by other animals. These geese often favor locations that bear abundant perennial rye grass, but are also known to graze on fruits, plants, and seeds, as well as potatoes.

In addition to their other food staples, these geese are known to consume the stubble from bean fields. During the winter months, they will casually graze away at empty fields. In fact, both their common and scientific name came about as a reference to this habit.

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