The Greater White-Fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) is named for the strip of white feathers surrounding its pink bill. Overall, however, it is mostly dark gray-brown with black barring and speckling on its belly, earning it the name “speckle-belly”. Its tail is black with contrasting white tail coverts. This is the only eastern goose with bright orange legs.
In flight, notice the Greater White-Fronted Goose’s steady wing beats and black primary feathers.
The immature Greater White-Fronted Goose lacks the hallmark white front and speckled belly. Otherwise, however, it is fairly similar to the adult.
Best Field Marks
- White feathers around bill.
- Speckled belly.
- Orange legs.
Greater White-Fronted Geese are particularly vocal, and they have unusually high-pitched calls. A laughing yodel is their most well-known sound. They also honk, grunt, and murmur, an aggressive sound known as the gang-gang call.
Distribution & Occurrence
The Greater White-Fronted Goose is a migrant and winter resident across Kansas, but is most common in the central portion of the state. It usually arrives in October at marshes and lakes with nearby grain fields. This makes wetlands like Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge prime destinations for the species.
Once at their winter quarters, Greater White-Fronted Geese will stick around until all of the water is frozen, and then return after a thaw. They leave Kansas in March to breed in Alaska and northern Canada. Any birds found in Kansas in the summer months are typically sick or injured.
Nonbreeding Greater White-Fronted Geese are quite gregarious. They congregate in large flocks, talk to each other incessantly, and even mingle with other geese species, such as the Canada Goose.
Another interesting characteristic of Greater White-Fronted Geese is their ability to walk well on land. In fact, they rarely spend time on the water except at night and when dabbling for roots. During they day they can be found foraging the fields for grass and young wheat.
Birdwatchers are not likely to be able or even interested in attracting Greater White-Fronted Geese to their backyards.
Hunters attract Greater White-Fronted Geese with decoys and by imitating the yodeling and grunting calls.
Juvenile Dark Morph Snow Goose
The adult Greater White-Fronted Goose can sometimes be confused with the blue variation of the juvenile Snow Goose. Note, however, that the Greater White-Fronted Goose is distinguished by the three field marks listed above. Juvenile blue Snow Geese have dark legs, lack barring on the belly, and have a more suffused light area around the bill.
Greater White-Fronted Goose
Photos, audio, and more information from Cornell’s All About Birds site.