Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo

Greater White-fronted Goose

Anser albifrons

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.
Conservation status 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.
Family Ducks and Geese
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.
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.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • juvenile
  • adult
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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.


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.

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.


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.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Migration

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.

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Migration

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.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A distinctive bark: kla-ha! or kla-hah-luk!
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.