Vol. 2, No. 5 – The American White-fronted Goose

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) by Nikhil Devasar

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) by Nikhil Devasar

From col. Chi. Acad. Sciences. Copyrighted by
Nature Study Pub. Co., 1897, Chicago.


“As stupid as a Goose!”

Yes, I know that is the way our family is usually spoken of. But then I’m not a tame Goose, you know. We wild fellows think we know a little more than the one which waddles about the duck-pond in your back yard.

He sticks to one old place all the time. Waddles and talks and looks the same year after year. We migratory birds, on the other hand, fly from place to place. Our summers are passed here, our winters there; so that we pick up a thing or two the common Goose never dreams of.

“The laughing Goose!”

Yes, some people call me that. I don’t know why, unless my Honk, honk, honk! sounds like a laugh. Perhaps, though, it is because the look about my mouth is so pleasant.

Did you ever see a flock of us in motion, in October or November, going to our winter home?

Ah, that is a sight! When the time comes for us to start, we form ourselves into a figure like this >· a big gander taking the lead where the dot is. Such a honk, honk, honking you never heard. People who have heard us, and seen us, say it sounds like a great army overhead.

Where do we live in summer, and what do we eat?

You will find us throughout the whole of North America, but in greater numbers on the Pacific coast. The fresh-water lakes are our favorite resorts. We visit the wheat fields and corn fields, nibbling the young, tender blades and feeding on the scattered grain. The farmers don’t like it a bit, but we don’t care. That is the reason our flesh tastes so sweet.

And tough!

My, how you talk! It is only we old fellows that are tough, we fellows over a year old. But of course a great many people don’t know that, or don’t care.

Why, I once heard of a gander that had waddled around a barnyard for five long years. Thanksgiving Day arrived, and they roasted him for dinner.

Think of eating an old, old friend like that!

Where do we build our nests?

Away up north, in Alaska, and on the islands of the Arctic Sea. We make them of hay, feathers, and down, building them in hollow places on the ground.

How many eggs?

Six. I am very good to my mate, and an affectionate father.


AMERICAN WHITE-FRONTED GOOSEAnser albifrons gambeli. Other names: “Laughing Goose,” “Speckle Belly.”

Range—North America, breeding far northward; in winter south to Mexico and Cuba, rare on the Atlantic coast.

Nest—On the ground, of grasses lined with down.

Eggs—Six or seven, dull greenish-yellow with obscure darker tints.

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) by Nikhil Devasar

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) by Nikhil Devasar

Lee’s Addition:

Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. (Luke 6:21 KJV)

Greater White-fronted Goose by Ashley Fisher (xeno-canto) recorded in U.K.

Flock flying over by Jonathon Jongsma (xeno-canto) recorded in U.S.

The Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) is a species of goose. The Greater White-fronted Goose is more closely related to the smaller Lesser White-fronted Goose (A. erythropus). In Europe it has been known as simply “White-fronted Goose”; in North America it is known as the Greater White-fronted Goose (or “Greater Whitefront”), and this name is also increasingly adopted internationally. It is named for the patch of white feathers bordering the base of its bill. But even more distinctive are the salt-and-pepper markings on the breast of adult birds, which is why the goose is colloquially called the “Specklebelly” in North America.

These Geese belong to the Anatidae – Ducks, Geese & Swans Family.

Greater White-fronted Geese are 25–32 in (64–81 cm) in length, have a 51–65 in (130–165 cm) wingspan and weigh 4.3–7.3 lb (1.93–3.31 kg). They have bright orange legs and mouse-coloured upper wing-coverts. They are smaller than Greylag Geese. As well as being larger than the Lesser White-fronted Goose, the Greater White-fronted Goose lacks the yellow eye-ring of that species, and the white facial blaze does not extend upwards so far as in Lesser.

The male is typical larger in size, both sexes are similar in appearance – greyish brown birds with light grey breasts dappled with dark brown to black blotches and bars. Both males and females also have a pinkish bill and orange legs and feet.

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons frontalis) ©WikiC

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons frontalis) ©WikiC

The Greater White-fronted Goose is divided into four subspecies. The nominate subspecies A. a. albifrons breeds in the far north of Europe and Asia, and winters further south and west in Europe.
Two other restricted-range races occur in northern North America: A. a. gambeli in interior northwest Canada, and wintering on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, slightly larger than the nominate form, and Tule Goose, A. a. elgasi, in southwest Alaska, largest and longest-billed of all, wintering in California. All these races are similar in plumage, differing only in size.

Finally, the very distinct Greenland White-fronted Goose, A. a. flavirostris, breeding in western Greenland, is much darker overall, with only a very narrow white tip to the tail (broader on the other races), more black barring on its belly, and usually has an orange (not pink) bill. It winters in Ireland and western Scotland.

Birds breeding in the far east of Siberia east to Arctic Canada, wintering in the United States and Japan, have been described as A. a. frontalis on the basis of their slightly larger size and a marginally longer bill. Another putative East Asian subspecies albicans has also been described. A 2012 study has found that frontalis and albicans do not merit subspecies status, the former being synonymised with gambelli and the latter with the nominate subspecies; this study found that these forms had been named on the wintering grounds from specimens whose breeding grounds were unknown.

Recent ecological studies suggest the Greenland birds should probably be considered a separate species from A. albifrons. Of particular interest is its unusually long period of parental care and association, which may last several years and can include grandparenting, possibly uniquely among the Anseriformes.

Weather conditions are a key factor in the annual breeding success of White-fronted Geese. In the Arctic, the window of opportunity for nesting, incubating eggs, and raising a brood to flight state is open briefly, for about three months. Arriving in late May or early June, White-fronted Geese begin departing for fall staging areas in early September. This means that a delayed snowmelt or late spring storm can significantly reduce the birds’ reproductive success. (Wikipeedia with editing)


Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

The above article is an article in the monthly serial for October 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Turnstone

The Previous Article – The Summer Tanager

Wordless Birds


Greater White-fronted Goose – All About Birds

Greater White-fronted Goose – Wikipedia

Anatidae – Ducks, Geese & Swans Family


Replies Welcomed!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.