Fire Effects Information System (FEIS)
FEIS Home Page

Index of Species Information

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: [].

ABBREVIATION : ANAL COMMON NAMES : greater white-fronted goose speckled brant gray brant specklebelly gray wavey whitefront laughing goose speck timber goose TAXONOMY : 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 [1]: Anser albifrons ssp. albifrons Scopoli (Eurasian white-fronted goose) Anser albifrons ssp. flavirostris Dalgety & Scott (Greenland white- fronted goose) 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 [16]. 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) [20]. ORDER : Anseriformes CLASS : Bird FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


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]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES18 Maple-beech-birch FRES19 Aspen-birch FRES36 Mountain grasslands FRES37 Mountain meadows FRES38 Plains grasslands FRES39 Prairie FRES41 Wet grasslands FRES42 Annual grasslands FRES44 Alpine STATES :


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 : 16 Aspen 18 Paper birch 24 Hemlock - yellow birch 25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch 60 Beech - sugar maple SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY 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 [14]. REFERENCES : NO-ENTRY


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 monogamous [20,24]. Age at sexual maturity - The greater white-fronted goose becomes sexually mature at 3 years of age [5]. Nesting - Greater white-fronted geese initiate nesting in late May or early June [5]. 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 [5]. 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 [24]. Greater white-fronted geese remain in families during the fall, winter, and spring, and into the nesting season [5]. Yearlings remain with their parents even during the nesting activities [5]. Breeders generally molt from July through August. Nonbreeders molt early in June [20]. Life span - The maximum recorded longevity of the greater white- fronted goose is 20.3 years [3]. 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 [14]. Areas used during migration are much the same as the winter habitat [20]. The greater white-fronted goose is also often found in flooded fields during migration [2]. 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 [14]. On breeding areas the ground cover is typically low-scrub willows and/or birches, heathers, sedges, and grasses [20]. 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 [20]. Palmer [20] 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. [14]. 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 [7]. 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 [14]. 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 [14]. Kortright [15] 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 [15]. In California, the greater white-fronted goose feeds extensively on the seeds of rice and barley [5]. PREDATORS : 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 [11]. The greater white-fronted goose is sensitive to aircraft disturbance. It is particularly alarmed by low-flying single engine aircraft during molting [10]. 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 [11]. REFERENCES : NO-ENTRY


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 [22]. 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 [25]. 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 [25]. 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 [23]. 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 [22]. Removal of dense vegetation and prevention of woody encroachment is vital to prairie marsh maintenance [23]. According to Ward [23], 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 [26]. Native American hunters in the North sometimes used fire on shores. This drove molting greater white-fronted geese onto land where they were killed [15]. 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 : NO-ENTRY

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. [21235]
2. American Ornithologists' Union. 1983. Checklist of North American birds. 6th ed. Lawrence, KS: Allen Press, Inc. 877 p. [21234]
3. Arnold, Todd W. 1988. Life histories of North American game birds: a reanalysis. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 66(8): 1906-1912. [21236]
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. [21237]
5. Bellrose, Frank C. 1980. Ducks, geese and swans of North America. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books. 3rd ed. 540 p. [19802]
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. [434]
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. [19321]
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. [15856]
9. Delacour, Jean. 1954. The waterfowl of the world. Vol. 1. London: Country Life. 284 p. [29421]
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. [29824]
11. Ely, Craig R.; Raveling, Dennis G. 1984. Breeding biology of Pacific white-fronted geese. Journal of Wildlife Management. 48(3): 823-837. [21238]
12. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905]
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. [998]
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. [21239]
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. [21240]
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. [21241]
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. [1384]
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. [20029]
19. Musgrove, Jack W.; Musgrove, Mary R. 1943. Waterfowl in Iowa. Des Moines, IA: State Convservation Committee. 113 p. + index. [20028]
20. Palmer, Ralph S., editor. 1976. Handbook of North American birds. vol. 2. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 521 p. [21242]
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. [21243]
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. [18726]
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. [18932]
24. Johnsgard, Paul A. 1979. A guide to North American waterfowl. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. 274 p. [20026]
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. [15274]
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. [3561]

FEIS Home Page