Flyttvägen för svenska fjällgäss - Svenska Jägareförbundet
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En flock fjällgäss under höstflyttningen 2013

Flyttvägen för svenska fjällgäss


Enligt den norska rapporten är den svenska flyttvägen ett allvarligt hot mot den norska populationens ”unika” flyttningsvanor. Svenska fjällgäss påstås kunna förleda norska artfränder att flytta ”fel” om de två populationerna skulle mötas.

Större delen av den svenska fjällgåspopulationen flyttar till Holland för att övervintra medan den norska övervintrar främst i Grekland. Projekt Fjällgås arbetade tidigare med att ändra flyttvanorna hos fjällgäss genom att använda adoptivföräldrar (vitkindade gäss) till utsättningsfåglar. Detta kom sig av att man ville minska den mycket höga dödligheten som drabbade fåglar utmed de östliga flyttvägarna, ett hot som när projektet startade var det mest allvarliga mot populationen. Idag flyttar alltså svenska fjällgäss mot söder och sydväst och dödligheten under flyttning och övervintring är nära noll.

Om den flyttväg som svenska fjällgäss använder är något nytt och artificiellt har varit föremål för mycket debatt. Det finns forskare som med stöd av de många hundra fynd av fjällgäss i västra Europa, långt innan Projekt Fjällgås startade, menar att det tidigare funnits en viktig flyttväg till dessa områden. Andra anser att dessa fynd bara speglar fjällgäss som hamnat fel. Projekt Fjällgås menar att all data som finns om detta troligen har hittats, och frågan har nått vägs ände. Det kommer aldrig finnas tillräcklig kunskap för att säkert fastställa huruvida det funnits en flyttväg till västra Europa eller inte, innan vår verksamhet startade.

Dagens flyttväg och övervintringsområde finns inom artens naturliga utbredningsområde. För oss i Projekt Fjällgås är frågan om huruvida dagens flyttväg är en återetablering av en tidigare viktig flyttväg, eller ej, har lägre prioritet än frågan om populationens överlevnad. Vårt arbete bygger vidare på den flyttväg som populationen använt i minst 35 år och som finns idag.

Flyway of Swedish LWfG

Migrating LWfG


According to the Norwegian report, the flyway used by Swedish LWfG is a serious threat to the “unique” Norwegian migration route. Swedish LWfG is said to delude Norwegian conspecifics to migrate in the “wrong” direction, should the two populations meet.


The main part of the Swedish LWfG population migrate to the Netherlands for wintering, whereas the Norwegian population spend the winter mainly in Greece. The Swedish LWfG Project previously tried to modify the migration habits for Swedish LWfG by using foster parents (Barnacle Geese)with known and safe wintering areas, to released and captive bred LWfG. The purpose of this action was to minimize the high mortality identified along the eastern migration routes, a factor identified as the most serious threat to the population. Today Swedish LWfG migrate in a southern or south-western direction and the mortality during the migration and wintering is close to zero.


Whether the migration route used by Swedish LWfG today is new and artificial, or not, has been the subject of a heated discussions. There are researchers who claim that an important south-western migration route has existed in the past, long before the Swedish LWfG Project started. The claim is based on many hundreds of historical observations of LWfG in Western Europe. Other scientists mean that these observations only reflect the fact that birds frequently deviate from traditional flyways. According to the opinion of the Swedish LWfG Project, further discussions are futile, as probably all available data have been presented and analysed. The information needed for a univocal opinion about a possible western flyway for LWfG existing before the Swedish LWfG Project started, will probably never be available.


The migration route of today and the wintering sites are situated within the natural distribution area of the species. The question of whether the flyway used today is a re-establishment of an old important flyway or not is of less priority compared to the issue of the survival of the LWfG population in Sweden. Our LWfG conservation work today and in the future, focus on the migration route which has now been used for more than 35 years.

Scientific framework with references for interested readers

Marchant & Musgrove (2011), in reviewing existing data, concluded that evidence available is insufficient to say unequivocally if, or if not, there has been a defined flyway for LWfG to Western Europe. According to the authors, the question whether this route is a natural one or not should not be an important issue.

Many studies show that wild LWfG was found wintering in the Netherlands and Germany long before any translocations program started. Five listed papers below show that the species have a long history in the region.

  • Kampe-Persson (2008)
  • Kruckenberg & Kruger (2013)
  • Mooij et. al. (2008)
  • Mooij & Heinicke (2008)
  • Mooij (2010)

Lebret (1952) estimated that in the 1940’s in the Netherlands one of a thousand Whitefronts was a Lesser White-fronted Goose.

Data is sufficient to show that today’s wintering areas in the Netherlands are within the species natural range, given the evidence of occurrence (albeit of unknown origin) in countries like the Netherlands and Germany (Koffijberg & van Winden 2013, Mooij & Heinicke 2008), before the release program in Sweden started. This has also been verified by IUCN (2015) by classifying the species as native in Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands.

It is well documented that geese may change migration routes without human-mediated actions (e.g. Madsen et. al. 1999, Dereliev 2006).

In most cases where a shift in migration route for waterbirds is described, the change relates to “short stopping” (Elmberg et. al. 2014), i.e. a shortening of the migration due to changes in climate.

Even if migration routes seemingly are stable for populations, there are reports of exchange of individuals between migration routes, at least for some studied populations, (e.g. Mooij et. al. 1999 and Jongejans et. al. 2015 for Greater White-fronted Geese, changing between Pannonic and North Sea Flyway) without any of the flyways disappear.

The Lesser White-fronted Goose population in Norway has been shown to have an exchange of individuals (males) with the Western Main population breeding in Russia which increase genetic variation in this small and vulnerable population (Ruokonen et.al. 2010).

In 2016, a Norwegian Lesser White-fronted Goose (ringed in the Norwegian breeding area as young 2013) was observed during spring migration near Lake Hornborgasjön in Sweden, indicating occasional movement of birds belonging to the Norwegian population through Sweden.

Reference list

BirdLife International 2015. European Red List of birds. Luxembourg. Office for Official Publications of the European Communitites.

Dereliev S.G. 2006. The Red-breasted Goose Branta ruficollis in the new millennium: a thriving species or a species on the brink of extinction? In Boere, G.C., Galbraith, C.A. & Stroud, D.A. (eds). 2006.Waterbirds around the world. The Stationery Office, Edinburgh, UK. 960 pp.

Jongejans E., Nolet B.A., Schekkerman H., Koffijberg K. & de Kroon H. 2015. Naar een effectief en internationaal verantwoord beheer van de in Nederland overwinterende populatie Kolganzen, Sovon-rapport 2014/56, CAPS-rapport 2014/02. Sovon Vogelonderzoek Nederland, Nijmegen. [in Dutch with English summary]

Kampe-Persson, H. 2008. Historical occurrence of the Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus in the Atlantic flyway. Ornis Svecica 18: 68–81

Kruckenberg H. & Kruger T. 2013 Lesser White-fronted Geese Anser erythropus in Lower Saxony (NW Germany)- status, distribution and numbers 1900-2007. Goose Bullentin. 17.

Koffijberg, K. & van Winden, E. 2013. Lesser White-fronted Geese in The Netherlands: a review of trends, phenology, distribtuion patterns and origin. Sovon-rapport 2013/48. Sovon Vogelonderzoek Nederland, Nijmegen.

Madsen, J., Cracknell G. & Fox T. 1999. Goose Populations of the Western Palearctic. A review of status and distribution. Wetlands International Publication 48, NERI, Wageningen/Kalø.

Marchant, J.H., Musgrove, A.J. 2011. Review of European flyways of the Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus. BTO Research Report 595

Mooij, J.H. 2010. Review of the historical distribution of the Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus in Europe. Ornis Svecica 20: 190-201.

Mooij, J. H. 2008. Development and international importance of the goose wintering site along the German Lower Rhine. - Vogelwelt 129: 174–184.

Mooij, J.H. & Heinicke, T. 2008. Status, distribution and numbers of the Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus in Germany. Vogelwelt 129: 281–292.

Mooij, J.H., Hansson, P., Kampe-Persson, H. & Nilsson, L. 2008. Analysis of historical observations of Fennoscandian Lesser White-fronted Geese Anser erythropus in Sweden and the West Palearctic. Vogelwelt 129: 269-280.

Mooij, J.H. S. Faragó, J.S. Kirby 1999. White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons albifrons. In: Madsen, J., G. Cracknell & A.D. Fox 1999. Goose populations of the Western Palearctic. A review of status and distribution. Wetlands International Publ. 48: 94-128.

Ruokonen, M., Aarvak, T., Chesser, R.K., Lundqvist, A.-C. & Merilä, J. 2010. Temporal increase in mtDNA diversity in a declining population. Molecular Ecology 19: 2408-2417.


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2017-01-04 2017-01-18