Index of Species Information
WILDLIFE SPECIES: Anser albifrons
WILDLIFE SPECIES: Anser albifrons
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Tesky, Julie L. 1993. Anser albifrons. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ .
COMMON NAMES :
greater white-fronted goose
The currently accepted scientific name for the greater white-fronted
goose is Anser albifons Scopoli [1,2,20,14]. The American Ornithologist's
Union recognizes the following four subspecies :
Anser albifrons ssp. albifrons Scopoli (Eurasian white-fronted goose)
Anser albifrons ssp. flavirostris Dalgety & Scott (Greenland white-
Anser albifrons ssp. frontalis Baird (Pacific white-fronted goose)
Anser albifrons ssp. gambeli Hartlaub (tule white-fronted goose)
Delacour and Ripley have proposed a fifth subspecies, Anser albifrons
ssp. elgasi, for the tule white-fronted goose that winters in
California; however, this has not been widely accepted .
The following species hybridize with the greater white-fronted goose:
graylag goose (A. anser), snow goose (Chen caerulescens), emperor goose
(C. canagica), lesser white-fronted goose (A. erythropus), bean goose
(A. fabalis), bar-headed goose (A. indicus), brant (Branta bernicla),
barnacle goose (B. leucopsis), and Canada goose (B. canadensis) .
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
WILDLIFE DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
WILDLIFE SPECIES: Anser albifrons
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Three subspecies of greater white-fronted geese occur in North America.
The Pacific white-fronted goose breeds in eastern Siberia, in arctic
Alaska from the Bering Sea Coast east to the Mackenzie River, and on
Saint Lawrence Island. It winters in the western United States, east to
Louisiana, in western and central Mexico, and in China and Japan [9,24].
The breeding grounds of the tule white-fronted goose are uncertain;
however, it probably breeds in the Mackenzie Basin region of Canada. The
tule white-fronted goose winters in California (the Great Central
Valley), Texas, and Louisiana [9,24].
The Greenland white-fronted goose breeds on the west coast of Greenland
and in the taiga of the Mackenzie Basin region of Canada; it winters
mainly in Ireland but occasionally winters in eastern Canada and the
eastern United States along the Atlantic Coast [9,18,24].
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES37 Mountain meadows
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES41 Wet grasslands
FRES42 Annual grasslands
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K048 California steppe
K049 Tule marshes
K050 Fescue - wheatgrass
K051 Wheatgrass - bluegrass
K063 Foothills prairie
K064 Grama - needlegrass - wheatgrass
K065 Grama - buffalograss
K066 Wheatgrass - needlegrass
K069 Bluestem - grama prairie
K067 Wheatgrass - bluestem - needlegrass
K068 Wheatgrass - grama - buffalograss
K070 Sandsage - bluestem prairie
K072 Sea oats prairie
K074 Bluestem prairie
K075 Nebraska Sandhills prairie
K077 Bluestem - sacahuista prairie
K078 Southern cordgrass prairie
K079 Palmetto prairie
K102 Beech - maple forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest
K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest
SAF COVER TYPES :
18 Paper birch
24 Hemlock - yellow birch
25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
60 Beech - sugar maple
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
PLANT COMMUNITIES :
The greater white-fronted goose is generally found in areas
characterized by dwarf arctic birch (Betula nana), willows (Salix spp.),
bilberries, crowberries (Empetrum nigrum), Labrador tea (Ledum
glandulosum), cassiope (Cassiope spp.), raspberries (Rubus spp.),
cattails (Typhus spp.), sedges (Carex spp.), bulrushes (Scirpus spp.),
horsetails (Equisetem spp.), cottongrass (Cottea pappophoroides),
bluegrass ((Poa spp.), fescue (Festuca spp.), sphagnum moss in
depressions, and reindeer lichens (Cladonia spp.) and cetaria on drier
sites [4,8,11,14]. The rice-prairie region of southeast Texas provides
important wintering habitat for some greater white-fronted geese. One
study in southeastern Texas showed that harvested rice fields and
soybean fields were preferred habitat of the greater white-fronted goose
BIOLOGICAL DATA AND HABITAT REQUIREMENTS
WILDLIFE SPECIES: Anser albifrons
TIMING OF MAJOR LIFE HISTORY EVENTS :
Pair formation - Occurs in the fall through spring. The majority are
paired during their second winter. Pair bonds are lifelong and
Age at sexual maturity - The greater white-fronted goose becomes
sexually mature at 3 years of age .
Nesting - Greater white-fronted geese initiate nesting in late May or
early June .
Clutch size and incubation - Clutch sizes range from four to seven eggs
[5,20,24]. Incubation lasts 26 to 28 days [20,24]. The goslings leave
the nest within 24 hours and are led to the nearest water .
Fledging and molting - Goslings fledge in about 45 days, during which
period the adults molt and are flightless. The adults are able to fly
about the same time as or shortly after the young have fledged, and
leave the breeding areas soon afterward . Greater white-fronted
geese remain in families during the fall, winter, and spring, and into
the nesting season . Yearlings remain with their parents even during
the nesting activities . Breeders generally molt from July through
August. Nonbreeders molt early in June .
Life span - The maximum recorded longevity of the greater white-
fronted goose is 20.3 years .
PREFERRED HABITAT :
Breeding habitat - During the breeding season the greater white-fronted
goose primarily inhabits the borders of shallow marshes and lakes,
riverbanks and islands, deltas, dry knolls, and hills near rivers and
ponds in Arctic tundra. The tule white-fronted goose may be more
dependent on heavy brush or woody vegetation for nesting than are the
other subspecies [2,4,24].
Nesting habitat - The greater white-fronted goose typically nests in
depressions on the ground in tall grass bordering tidal sloughs or in
sedge marshes, usually within 300 feet (91 m) of water, or on hummocks
along rivers, streams, and lakes [8,20].
Winter habitat - In winter, the greater white-fronted goose uses areas
of extensive shallow water, croplands, pastures, open terrain with
numerous ponds, and inland and coastal marshes. Cropland and
pastureland are primary winter habitat, while freshwater marshes are
secondary habitat [14,20]. On its winter grounds the greater
white-fronted goose forages more efficently in areas where the
vegetation is relatively short; however, it does forage within natural
wetlands containing vegetation of various species composition, height,
and density . Areas used during migration are much the same as the
winter habitat . The greater white-fronted goose is also often
found in flooded fields during migration .
COVER REQUIREMENTS :
The greater white-fronted goose uses marshlands mainly for resting and
roosting between field-feeding, and as escape cover. Tall emergent
vegetation provides shelter and cover in addition to providing food.
The agricultural habitats used by the greater white-fronted goose during
winter and migration provide good visibility . On breeding areas
the ground cover is typically low-scrub willows and/or birches,
heathers, sedges, and grasses .
FOOD HABITS :
The greater white-fronted goose feeds mostly on vegetable matter such as
grasses, sedges, aquatic plants, berries, and grains [14,20]. It
occasionally eats insects and mollusks . Palmer  reported that
in Alaska the greater white-fronted goose feeds primarily on berries of
Ericaceae spp. during the spring and fall and on young grass shoots,
aquatic insects, and larvae during the summer.
The greater white-fronted goose feeds on the leaves, stems, seeds, or
rhizomes of cattail, spike rush, cordgrass, horsetail, forbs and grasses
including white clover (Trifolium repens), creeping buttercup
(Ranunculus repens), common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale),
barnyardgrass (Echinochloa crusgalli), barley (Hordeum secalunum),
perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne), bulbous foxtail (Alopecurus
bulbosus), carpetbent grass (Agrostis stolonifera), panic grass (Panicum
spp.), and Paspalum spp. . During the prenesting season on the
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta of Alaska, the greater white-fronted goose often
feeds on pendent grass (Arctophila fulva) shoots, arrowgrass (Triglochin
palustris) bulbs, and crowberry .
Cereal grains, grasses, and marsh plants are primary foods of the
greater white-fronted goose during winter, while seeds, roots, and
tubers are secondary foods . Rice and soybeans are among the waste
grains consumed during the winter. During late winter, newly sprouted
grasses and forbs on cultivated fields also provide food for the greater
white-fronted goose . Kortright  found that in Kentucky the
greater white-fronted goose feeds on beechnuts and acorns along margins
of ponds. In the fields of Kentucky this goose eats seeds of corn and
grass blades . In California, the greater white-fronted goose feeds
extensively on the seeds of rice and barley .
The following predators commonly destroy nests of the greater
white-fronted goose: foxes (Alopex lagopus and Vulpes vulpes), jaegers
(Stercorarius parasiticus and S. longicaudus), and glaucous gulls (Larus
hyperboreus) [10,11]. Information on predators of adult greater
white-fronted goose is lacking in the literature.
MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
The greater white-fronted goose is an important game bird. The
population of this species has declined in recent years partially due to
heavy harvesting .
The greater white-fronted goose is sensitive to aircraft
disturbance. It is particularly alarmed by low-flying single
engine aircraft during molting .
Flooding can cause greater white-fronted goose nest failure. On the
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta of Alaska in 1978, 13 of 25 greater white-fronted
goose nests flooded were destroyed, while only 3 out out of 19 nests
that had not been flooded were destroyed .
FIRE EFFECTS AND USE
WILDLIFE SPECIES: Anser albifrons
DIRECT FIRE EFFECTS ON ANIMALS :
No specific information was found on the direct effects of fire on the
greater white-fronted goose; however, adult geese can probably easily
escape fire when not molting. Nests and goslings are probably most
susceptible to fire.
HABITAT RELATED FIRE EFFECTS :
Fire can improve the habitat of the greater white-fronted goose. It
often removes excessive accumulations of fast-growing hydrophytes,
permitting better waterfowl access and growth of more desirable foods
for the greater white-fronted goose . Wet cover fires of coastal
marshes (marsh fires where water levels are at or above the root
horizons) 2 to 3 weeks before the greater white-fronted goose arrives
remove most vegetation and make access to roots and tubers easier .
Fire can have a negative impact on habitat of the greater white-fronted
goose. If a fire occurs before nesting starts, the nesting cover may be
destroyed . Large-scale autumn burning may have a detrimental
effect upon marshes by reducing the retention of drifting snow, which
adds heavily to spring run-off. The ability of marsh vegetation to
catch and hold snow is vital to marsh survival .
FIRE USE :
Burning of sedge meadows and wet marshy areas provides excellent grazing
for geese. Fire can also be used to convert forested uplands adjacent
to aquatic habitats to grasses and sedges which would likely improve
this area for greater white-fronted goose nesting . Removal of
dense vegetation and prevention of woody encroachment is vital to
prairie marsh maintenance . According to Ward , spring burning
in marshlands is primarily done to remove vegetation and create more
nesting edge. Summer fires are used to create more permanent changes in
the plant community.
Precribed burning during the nesting season should be avoided. Land
managers who burn during the nesting season should consider partial
burns. Partial burns will probably have less impact on total vegetation
changes but should result in higher recruitment of waterfowl .
Native American hunters in the North sometimes used fire on shores.
This drove molting greater white-fronted geese onto land where they were
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
References for species: Anser albifrons
1. American Ornithologists' Union. 1957. Checklist of North American birds. 5th ed. Baltimore, MD: The Lord Baltimore Press, Inc. 691 p. 
2. American Ornithologists' Union. 1983. Checklist of North American birds. 6th ed. Lawrence, KS: Allen Press, Inc. 877 p. 
3. Arnold, Todd W. 1988. Life histories of North American game birds: a reanalysis. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 66(8): 1906-1912. 
4. Bauer, Richard D. 1979. Historical and status report of the Tule white-fronted goose. In: Jarvis, Robert L.; Bartnek, James C., eds. Management and biology of Pacific Flyway geese: Proceedings; 16 February 1979: 44-55. 
5. Bellrose, Frank C. 1980. Ducks, geese and swans of North America. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books. 3rd ed. 540 p. 
6. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. 
7. Budeau, David A.; Ratti, John T.; Ely, Craig R. 1991. Energy dynamics, foraging ecology, and behavior of prenesting greater white-fronted geese. Journal of Wildlife Management. 55(4): 556-563. 
8. DeGraaf, Richard M.; Scott, Virgil E.; Hamre, R. H.; [and others]. 1991. Forest and rangeland birds of the United States: Natural history and habitat use. Agric. Handb. 688. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 625 p. 
9. Delacour, Jean. 1954. The waterfowl of the world. Vol. 1. London: Country Life. 284 p. 
10. Derksen, Kirk V.; Weller, Milton W.; Eldridge, William D. 1979. Distributional ecology of geese molting near Teshekpuk Lake, National Petroleum Reserve--Alaska. In: Jarvis, Robert. L.; Bartonek, James. C., eds. Management and biology of Pacific flyway geese: a symposium; 16 February 1979; Portland, OR. Corvallis, OR: Northwest Section, The Wildlife Society; Oregon State University Bookstores: 189-207. 
11. Ely, Craig R.; Raveling, Dennis G. 1984. Breeding biology of Pacific white-fronted geese. Journal of Wildlife Management. 48(3): 823-837. 
12. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. 
13. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. 
14. Kaminski, R. M. 1986. Habitat suitability models: greater white-fronted goose (wintering). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Biol. Rep. 82(10.116). 14 p. 
15. Kortright, Francis H. 1942. The ducks, geese and swans of North America. Harrisburg, PA: The Stackpole Company; Washington, DC: Wildlife Management Institute. 476 p. 
16. Krogman, Bruce D. 1979. Systematic study of Anser albifrons in California. In: Jarvis, Robert L.; Bartonik, James C. Management and biology of Pacific Flyway geese; 16 February 1979: 22-43. 
17. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. 
18. Madge, Steve; Burn, Hilary. 1988. Waterfowl: An indentification guide to the ducks, geese and swans of the world. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. 298 p. 
19. Musgrove, Jack W.; Musgrove, Mary R. 1943. Waterfowl in Iowa. Des Moines, IA: State Convservation Committee. 113 p. + index. 
20. Palmer, Ralph S., editor. 1976. Handbook of North American birds. vol. 2. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 521 p. 
21. Timm, Daniel E.; Wege, Michael L.; Gilmer, David S. 1982. Current status and management challenges for tule white-fronted geese. Transactions, North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference. 47: 453-463. 
22. Vogl, Richard J. 1967. Controlled burning for wildlife in Wisconsin. In: Proceedings, 6th annual Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference; 1967 March 6-7; Tallahassee, FL. No. 6. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 47-96. 
23. Ward, P. 1968. Fire in relation to waterfowl habitat of the delta marshes. In: Proceedings, annual Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1968 March 14-15; Tallahassee, FL. No. 8. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 255-267. 
24. Johnsgard, Paul A. 1979. A guide to North American waterfowl. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. 274 p. 
25. Hoffpauier, Clark M. 1968. Burning for coastal marsh management. In: Newsom, John D., ed. Proceedings of the marsh and estuary management symposium; 1967; Baton Rouge, LA. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University: 134-139. 
26. Kruse, Arnold D.; Piehl, James L. 1986. The impact of prescribed burning on ground-nesting birds. In: Clambey, Gary K.; Pemble, Richard H., eds. The prairie: past, present and future: Proceedings, 9th North American prairie conference; 1984 July 29 - August 1; Moorhead, MN. Fargo, ND: Tri-College University Center for Environmental Studies: 153-156.