Greater White-Fronted Goose

Anser albifrons

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Photo of a white-fronted goose.
White-fronted geese have brown upperparts, with the head and neck darker brown; the underparts are white to light brown.
Family

Anatidae (ducks, geese, swans) in the order Anseriformes

Description

On adults, upperparts are brown with head and neck darker brown; underparts are white to light brown with several to many black horizontal streaks. Bill, legs, and feet are bright pink, and the base of the bill is encircled in white. Immatures lack white at the base of the bill and black bars on underparts. The call is a yelping laughing, yodeling sound, cah-laa-haluk.

Similar species: In flight, Canada and greater white-fronted geese are very similar, but the white-fronts are more agile and buoyant in flight and have narrower wings. Both appear dark from a distance, in most light.

Size

Length: 28 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).

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Photo of several white-fronted geese in flight.
White-Fronted Geese in Flight
The white-fronted goose migrates to warmer climates in winter, and some of them fly through Missouri.

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Photo of a white-fronted goose walking down a slope.
White-Fronted Goose
Immature white-fronted geese lack white at the base of the bill and black bars on underparts.

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Photo of a white-fronted goose nibbling on a lawn.
White-Fronted Goose
White-fronted geese forage in a variety of fields, marshes, pastures, and lakeshores for grains and vegetation.

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Photo of two Canada geese and a white-fronted goose standing near a lake.
Canada Geese and White-Fronted Goose
Migratory animals play a role in every ecosystem they travel through, as well as in their breeding and overwintering places.
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in marshes, waterholes, ponds, lakes, and reservoirs with aquatic vegetation. Often seen foraging in crop fields and pastures. Like other migratory waterfowl, this game species is protected by law. Follow the rules outlined in the Wildlife Code of Missouri.

Foods

They forage in cornfields, newly sprouted winter wheat fields, and marshes for grains, roots, grasses, or aquatic vegetation. They also forage in crop fields for grains, or in pastures, marshes, and lakeshores for grasses and sedges. They sometimes forage by dabbling in shallow water, like mallards and dipping ducks, by “tipping up.”

image of Greater White-Fronted Goose Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide. More common in the western half of state; it is more common in western North America than in the east.

Status

Uncommon migrant.

Life cycle

The white-fronted goose has a circumpolar (global) distribution, breeding in northern latitude tundra in North America and all across Eurasia. They migrate to warmer climates in winter, including along parts of the Gulf Coast. This means some of them fly through Missouri. As with many other geese, once mated, pairs stay together for years and migrate in family groups.

Human connections

Sometimes called the “specklebelly” for the dark markings on the breast. Due to overhunting, this species was in serious decline in North America in the early 20th century. With international, federal, and state game laws protecting waterfowl and their habitat, their populations are healthy today.

Ecosystem connections

Migratory animals play a role in every ecosystem they travel through, as well as in their breeding and overwintering places. Although it takes a fairly large predator to capture an adult goose, the defenseless young and eggs fall prey to a variety of meat-eaters.