Greater White-fronted GooseAnser albifrons

adult
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
juvenile
Peter LaTourrette/VIREO
adult
Adrian & Jane Binns/VIREO
adult
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult
Marvin R. Hyett, M.D./VIREO

Description

In North America, this gray goose is found mainly west of the Mississippi River. Nesting on Arctic tundra, it winters in open country in mild climates. Wintering flocks leave night roosts before sunrise to fly to feeding areas, and musical gabbling and honking can be heard from wavering lines of White-fronts passing overhead at dawn. Included in this species is a large, dark form known as the "Tule Goose," nesting in southern Alaska and wintering in central California marshes.

Habitat

Marshes, prairies, fields, lakes, bays; tundra in summer. Generally in open country; most spend winter where agricultural fields (for foraging) are close to extensive shallow waters (for roosting). Breeds on tundra, both wet coastal areas and drier inland tundra. "Tule Goose" breeds in wet open sloughs and bogs in spruce forest region, winters mainly in marshes.

Feeding Diet

Mostly plant material. In winter, mostly eats seeds and waste grain in fields, also grazes on new growth. In summer, eats stems and roots of grasses, sedges, horsetail, and other plants, also berries and buds. Eats a few aquatic insects and sometimes snails, possibly swallowed accidentally along with plants.

Feeding Behavior

Forages while walking on land by grazing and picking up items from ground. In water, submerges head and neck, or upends with tail up and head straight down.

Nesting

Usually first breeds at age of 3 years. "Triumph display" important in pair bond: male briefly attacks some other bird, then returns to female with neck outstretched and wings partly open, and both male and female call loudly. Nest site is on ground, usually near water, generally surrounded by grasses, sedges, low shrubs. Nest (built by female) is shallow depression lined with plant materials, with down added near end of egg-laying. Eggs: 3-6, sometimes 1-8. Dull white, becoming nest-stained. Incubation is by female only, 22-27 days. Young: Can walk and swim well shortly after hatching. Both parents tend young, leading them to feeding areas; young feed themselves. Age at first flight 38-45 days. Young remain with parents for first year of life and often are loosely associated with them for several years.

Eggs

3-6, sometimes 1-8. Dull white, becoming nest-stained. Incubation is by female only, 22-27 days. Young: Can walk and swim well shortly after hatching. Both parents tend young, leading them to feeding areas; young feed themselves. Age at first flight 38-45 days. Young remain with parents for first year of life and often are loosely associated with them for several years.

Young

Can walk and swim well shortly after hatching. Both parents tend young, leading them to feeding areas; young feed themselves. Age at first flight 38-45 days. Young remain with parents for first year of life and often are loosely associated with them for several years.

Conservation

Total population in North America fluctuates. Apparently declined in 1970s, increased again in late 1980s and later. Status of "Tule Goose" poorly understood, may be vulnerable because of small numbers and limited range.

Range

A long-distance migrant. Migrates by day or night. Follows established routes and relies on traditional stopover points on migration. Birds nesting in Greenland migrate east over North Atlantic, wintering mainly in Ireland; rarely stray to northeastern North America.

Listen

calls of flock #2
other calls
calls of flock #1

Similar Species

adult

Canada Goose

This big "Honker" is among our best-known waterfowl. In many regions, flights of Canada Geese passing over in V-formation -- northbound in spring, southbound in fall -- are universally recognized as signs of the changing seasons. Once considered a symbol of wilderness, this goose has adapted well to civilization, nesting around park ponds and golf courses; in a few places, it has even become something of a nuisance. Local forms vary greatly in size, and the smallest ones are now regarded as a separate species, Cackling Goose.

adult

Cackling Goose

The white-cheeked geese of North America were long considered to make up just one highly variable species, Canada Goose. It was not until 2004 that four of the smallest forms were formally recognized as comprising a distinct species. As their name suggests, Cackling Geese have much higher-pitched voices than the familiar honking of Canada Geese.

adults

Emperor Goose

This tidewater goose of the Bering Sea region seems less wary than most other geese. Uncommon and localized, it ordinarily migrates only short distances, from the Alaskan and Siberian tundra to the Aleutian chain; only a few stragglers are seen south of Alaska. Generally does not mix with other geese, and usually travels in small groups, although large numbers may concentrate at a few key spots in migration and winter.

Vireo

iPad Promo