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Journey to the Far North - The Amazing Adventures of Great White-fronted Geese with Satellite Transmitters

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29.04.2024
We would like to tell you about an amazing journey. The journey far north taken by four of our team's favorites – Great white-fronted geese, rescued and treated at the Green Balkans' Wildlife Rescue Center. The birds were fitted with satellite transmitters before being released into the wild and some of them now send us regular information about their journey north to the places where they will raise their chiks.

Unfortunately, one of the birds fell victim to a predator at the Atanasovsko lake area shortly after its release. The second of the birds reached the shores of the Sea of Azov in Russia, where it managed to take down the transmitter. Before that, she flew over the Crimea, flying 940 km in 14 hours, which makes an average speed of 67 km/h. Fortunately, we were able to contact a colleague from Russia - Petar Glazov - and the transmitter was found. The other two geese continue to send information about their location.

Geese are amazing creatures. You probably had no idea how much. So here are some facts about them:
  • Greater white-fronted Geese are strong and hardy fliers that fly in a line or V-formation.
  • They lay 3 to 6 eggs, rarely more. Only the female incubates them for a period of 22-27 days.
  • The juveniles are usually 38-45 days old when they take their first flight.
  • As with other species of geese, pairs of Greater white-fronted geese stay together for years and migrate together, including with their offspring. Sometimes young birds stay with their parents during the next breeding season.
  • Before migrating north, female Greater white-fronted geese gain 30% more weight to stimulate egg formation and migration.
  • The oldest recorded individual of the species was at least 25 years old when it was observed in Louisiana in 1998. The bird was tagged in Nunavut in 1975.

And here are some interesting details from the journey of our favorites. The two geese took different routes. The first one headed north on March 18 and reached the Danube Delta, where it first stopped for a day rest at Lake Razim in Romania, then moved to the Ukrainian side near the village of Shevchenko. After a ten-day recovery, the bird continued northeast, reaching the Kakhovka Reservoir in Zaporozhye, where it also stopped for a day, before continuing east over the war zones of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, reaching the Volga River region of Russia at the end of March. Another break of nine days followed before the goose continued east, entering Kazakhstan. For the past 12 days, the bird has been confined to an area of about 6,000 km2 in northern Kazakhstan. In these six weeks since the beginning of the migration, the goose has flown more than 3500 km!

The second goose began its journey two days earlier, flying a bit west of the first bird, stopping to rest at one of the large islands in the Danube River, south of Braila in Romania. The next day, the bird continued its journey to the northeast, reaching Ukraine, where it spent a week in the Kherson region. Like the first bird, this one also flew over the war front in eastern Ukraine and reached the Volga River, but north of Volgograd. After five days on the Volga, the goose moved about 260 km northwest to Voronezh Region, where it replenished its energy reserves for about a week before flying another 1,200 km east into Kazakhstan. In these 3 weeks since the start of the migration, the bird has flown about 3300 km.

You can follow the birds' routes on the attached maps. Stay tuned for more news and details from the feathered adventurers' journey soon!

For contact:
Dimitar Popov - dpopov@greenbalkans.org