WatchList Species Account for Emperor Goose (Chen canagica)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Emperor Goose
Photo: USFWS

This Bering Sea species nests in coastal tidal salt marshes in western Alaska and across the Bering Strait in eastern Siberia. The vast majority breed within nine miles of the coast on the Yukon-Kuskokwim (Y-K) Delta.


Most Emperor Geese winter on ice-free intertidal beaches of the Aleutians, with lesser numbers along the south coast of the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak and Afognak Islands and a few in eastern Siberia. In this habitat the birds feeds mostly on bivalves and other aquatic invertebrates, but in summer it eats mostly roots, bulbs, and shoots of marsh plants.


The bird experienced a significant decline in numbers from 139,000 in 1964 to 42,000 in 1986, though numbers have recovered somewhat since then. Factors contributing to this decline are not well-known, but subsistence hunting by Native Americans may be a key factor, and coastal oil pollution may be responsible for mortality in wintering birds. The bird is easy to hunt, as it flies low to the ground, responds to people walking it is habitat by circling nearby, and readily comes to decoys.


Among the principal predators of eggs and young are jaegers and arctic and red foxes. Since most of the population nests in the Y-K Delta, aerial surveys of the area provide a good estimate of population trends.


In recent years the nesting populations of two other goose species (White-fronted and Cackling Canada) have increased dramatically while Emperor numbers have remained relatively stable. Measures to conserve the species include banning of hunting when numbers fall below a certain level as measured by spring surveys, and establishing a bag limit when hunting is allowed.