Swan goose

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Swan goose (Anser cygnoides)

The swan goose is a rare large kind of goose with a natural habitat range in Mongolia, northernmost parts of China and southeastern Russia. The species is migratory and spends winter mainly in the central and eastern parts of China. Accidentally flown-in birds have also been found in Japan and Korea, where they have also spent winters when the species has been more common, and more rarely in Kazakhstan, Laos, Siberia, Taiwan, Thailand and Uzbekistan.

The species has been domesticated. Introduced and wild populations of the domesticated swan goose breeds can be found in many places outside its natural habitat.

Against the background of the other representatives of its genus, the swan goose has large size and a long neck, with an average length of 81 - 94 cm and an average weight of 2.8 - 3.5 kg and more. Both sexes are similar in appearance, although the male is larger and has a proportionally longer beak and neck. In fact, the largest females hardly reach in size the smallest males. The wingspan of the adult swan goose reaches 160-185 cm.

The upper body parts are grayish-brown with fine light edges on the larger feathers and with red-brown colored feathers on the nape and pate. The wings are black, as well as the entire plumage below them, and the feathers at the base of the tail are white. A thin white stripe surrounds the base of the beak.

Unlike all other species in the genus, the long beak of the swan geese is completely black, and the legs and feet are orange like the rest of their relatives. The irises are reddish-brown. The young species have more uniform plumage than adults, and they lack the white band at the base of the beak and the dark spots on the belly.

They make loud, hoarse sounds. When frightened, they make two or three warning signals at short intervals.

They inhabit territories ranging from steppes to taiga and riverside mountain valleys. They prefer to graze plants such as sedges (Cyperaceae) and rarely swim. Beyond the breeding season, they gather in small flocks. The birds migrate from their winter habitats around April and the breeding season begins soon after their return. The nesting activity starts around May. The hatch usually consists of 5 – 6, but sometimes up to 8 eggs, laid in a shallow nest made of plants and located directly on the ground or on small mounds. The chicks hatch after about 28 days of brooding and become independent immediately after hatching. They reach sexual maturity at the age of about 2-3. In late August - early September, the birds head towards their winter habitats, gathering in small groups, in order to change their feathers.

In 2008, the conservation status of the swan goose was changed to "vulnerable species".