Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)

Greater White-fronted Goose

[order] ANSERIFORMES | [family] Anatidae | [latin] Anser albifrons | [authority] Scopoli, 1769 | [UK] Greater White-fronted Goose | [FR] Oie rieuse | [DE] Blassgans | [ES] Ansar Careto Grande | [NL] Kolgans


Monotypic species


The waterfowl genus Anser includes all grey geese and sometimes the white geese. It belongs to the true geese and swan subfamily (Anserinae). The genus has a Holarctic distribution, with at least one species breeding in any open, wet habitats in the subarctic and cool temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in summer. Some also breed further south, reaching into warm temperate regions. They mostly migrate south in winter, typically to regions in the temperate zone. Numerous fossil species have been allocated to this genus. As the true geese are near-impossible to assign osteologically to genus, this must be viewed with caution. It can be assumed with limited certainty that European fossils from known inland sites belong into Anser. As species related to the Canada Goose have been described from the Late Miocene onwards in North America too, sometimes from the same localities as the presumed grey geese, it casts serious doubt on the correct generic assignment of the supposed North American fossil geese. The Early Pliocene Branta howardae is one of the cases where doubts have been expressed about its generic assignment.[citation needed] Similarly, Heterochen = Anser pratensis seems to differ profoundly from other species of Anser and might be placed into a different genus; alternatively, it might have been a unique example of a grey goose adapted for perching in trees.

Physical charateristics

The Greater White-fronted Goose is mottled brownish-gray overall with a black tail, white rump, white band at the tip of the tail, and bright orange legs. The belly has a varied pattern of large black splotches. Its name is derived from the white facial feathers around the base of the pinkish-yellow bill. The juvenile looks similar but lacks the white facial feathering and black markings on the belly.
The Greater White-fronted Goose grazes while walking on land, and dabbles when in the water. Social most of the year, this goose is territorial during the breeding season

Listen to the sound of Greater White-fronted Goose

[audio: White-fronted Goose.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 130 cm wingspan max.: 160 cm
size min.: 64 cm size max.: 78 cm
incubation min.: 27 days incubation max.: 28 days
fledging min.: 40 days fledging max.: 28 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 4  
      eggs max.: 6  


North America, Middle America, Eurasia : widespread


Greater White-fronted Geese nest on marshy ponds in the tundra or taiga. They winter in open country in mild climates in habitat with shallow fresh or salt water near agricultural fields.


The Greater White-fronted Goose doesn’t usually breed until 3 years of age. The female builds a shallow depression lined with plant material and down in a sheltered spot near the water. She lays and incubates 3 to 6 eggs for 22 to 27 days. The young walk and swim almost immediately after hatching, and both parents tend them, although they feed themselves. First flight is typically between 38 and 45 days, but the young remain with the parents for at least the first year, and often maintain an association with the family for several years.

Feeding habits

In the winter, seeds and waste grain are the staple of the diet. Stems and roots become more important sources of food during the breeding season. These geese also eat some invertebrates.

Video Greater White-fronted Goose


copyright: youtube


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Anser albifrons breeds in Greenland and arctic Russia, with Europe accounting for
less than a quarter of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is
relatively small (<72,000 pairs), but was stable between 1970-1990. Although the population in Greenland declined during 1990-2000, the species increased in its Russian stronghold, and underwent a large increase overall.
This goose is breeding in the tundra of northern Eurasia and North America. Its nominate race can be hunted, and is included in Annex II. The race flavirostris is included in Annex I, however. Its breeding grounds are along the West Coast of Greenland, and it is wintering in the British Isles. After a strong decline during the 1960’s and 1970’s, its population has strongly increased and amounts again 30000 individuals
Greater White-fronted Goose status Least Concern


Migratory, spends winter months in fixed areas at lower latitude, mostly in temperate Europe, Asia and North America. Occasionally further S during cold winters.

Distribution map

Greater White-fronted Goose distribution range map


Title Serological survey of viral pathogens in bean and white-fronted geese from Germany
Author(s): A. Hlinak, T. Muller, M. Kramer, R. U. Muhle, H. Liebherr, and K. Ziedler
Abstract: Sera from wild geese were tested for antibodies to..[more]..
Source: Wildl. Dis., Jul 1998; 34: 479-486

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