Welcome to the Birds of North America Online!
Welcome to BNA Online, the leading source of life history information for North American breeding birds. This free, courtesy preview is just the first of 14 articles that provide detailed life history information including Distribution, Migration, Habitat, Food Habits, Sounds, Behavior and Breeding. Written by acknowledged experts on each species, there is also a comprehensive bibliography of published research on the species.
A subscription is needed to access the remaining articles for this and any other species. Subscription rates start as low as $5 USD for 30 days of complete access to the resource. To subscribe, please visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology E-Store.
If you are already a current subscriber, you will need to sign in with your login information to access BNA normally.
Subscriptions are available for as little as $5 for 30 days of full access! If you would like to subscribe to BNA Online, just visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology E-Store.
With a nearly circumpolar arctic distribution, the Greater White-fronted Goose has the broadest range of any species in its genus and is the only New World representative of the five species of gray geese from the Old World. In North America, this species breeds in open tundra areas of the low Arctic from Point Barrow, Alaska (71°N) to northeastern Keewatin, Northwest Territories (71° 31’N), and it formerly wintered south to Chiapas, Mexico (15°N), thus having the broadest latitudinal range of any arctic-nesting goose.
The Greater White-fronted Goose inhabits natural wetlands and agricultural lands—a broad spectrum of habitats ranging from wet tundra, boreal forest mires, and coastal marshes in the temperate zone to semiarid grasslands, deserts, and montane valleys in the subtropics of Mexico. It is most commonly found west of the Mississippi River and west of 85°W longitude from the Yucatán Peninsula north to the base of the Melville Peninsula in Keewatin.
This is a sexually monomorphic species, generally monogamous, cryptically colored, and territorial while breeding. A long-lived bird, it maintains permanent pair bonds and provides extended biparental care to its young, often into the next breeding season and beyond. Gregarious and social except while nesting, it nests singly or in loose aggregations and lays three to seven pale tannish-white eggs. Unsuccessful pairs and some nonbreeders undertake a premolt migration to segregated molting grounds. During its nonbreeding season from August to May, this species forms flocks and stages and roosts communally, often in association with other species of geese. A highly mobile bird and one of our first fall migrants, this goose undertakes long seasonal migrations from Alaska to Oregon and from arctic Canada across the boreal forest to the northern Great Plains.
In North America, the Greater White-fronted Goose comprises two geographically distinct populations: Pacific and Midcontinent. Both have fluctuated dramatically since the early 1950s, with declines resulting from overexploitation and loss of habitat. This is a species avidly sought by sport and subsistence hunters. Over 1,000,000 birds inhabited North America in autumn 1994. A larger, dark brown subspecies, the Tule Goose (Anser albifrons gambeli), numbers less than 10,000.
Although the Greater White-fronted Goose has been well studied in Europe and parts of Asia (Cramp and Simmons 1977, Owen et al. 1992), only a modest published data base exists for its Nearctic forms, despite significant numbers of unpublished reports. Important bibliographies for the species can be found in Palmer (1976), Cramp and Simmons (1977), Johnsgard (1978), Bellrose (1980), Owen (1980), Fox and Stroud (1981), Weller (1988), Johnson and Herter (1989), Smith et al. (1989), and Batt et al. (1992).