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Greater White-fronted Goose

Anser albifrons

Length: 26 to 34 inches Wingspan: 54 to 62 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: White band at base of pink bill, dark mottling and barring on grayish underparts

Greater White-fronted Goose - Anser albifronsThe Greater White-fronted Goose is a common spring migrant in South Dakota, and can also be found during the fall migration.  They have adapted well to a human presence and now rely heavily on waste grain and other agricultural by-products on their wintering grounds (and when in migration through the state).  


Breeds on both wet coastal areas and drier inland areas on the Arctic tundra.  In migration and in winter, they are generally found in open habitats where they have easy access to both agricultural fields for feeding and shallow waters for roosting at night.


Primarily feeds on grasses, sedges, other plants, berries, and buds in the summer.  Relies heavily on seeds and waste grain in the winter, as well as new growth.  They will also occasionally feed on snails and aquatic insects.


Often forages on land, walking along and eating food items on the ground.  In the water, swims on the surface, reaching its head and neck under the water for food items.


Non-breeder in South Dakota. On their breeding grounds, the nest of a Greater White-fronted Goose is a scrape on the ground, placed in either upland tundra or wetter areas near a pond or wetland. The scrape is lined with grasses, and then finished with downy feathers. The female lays between 2 and 7 eggs, and she alone incubates them. The young hatch after 22 to 27 days.

Family bonds are strong with Greater White-fronted Snow Geese, as mating pairs form long-term bonds and stay together even outside of the nesting season. Young Greater White-fronted Snow Geese will also stay with the parents into the next nesting season.


High-pitched laughing honk


Summers on the Arctic tundra.  Winters locally in California, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, and Arizona, as well as near the U.S. Gulf Coast and Mexico.  They tend to follow established routes and use the same stopover points each season.  They are generally only found west of the Mississippi River.

Interactive eBird map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Greater White-fronted Goose sightings

Similar Species:

Greater White-fronted Geese have a unique plumage if seen well, but they could potentially be confused with the following species in poor viewing conditions.

Snow Goose 6 - Chen caerulescens Snow Goose 3 - Chen caerulescens Canada Goose 19 - Branta canadensis Canada Goose 6 - Branta canadensis
Snow Goose Snow Goose Canada Goose Canada Goose

Conservation Status:

In the North American part of their range, populations of Greater White-fronted Geese have substantially grown in the last 40 years, in part, rebounding from sharp declines during the first half of the 20th century. They are found across a very broad geographic area, and they are common in many parts of that range. The IUCN considers the Greater White-fronted Goose to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

March 20th, 2005 -- Western Minnehaha County -- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Greater White-fronted Goose photos.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the range map for a higher-resolution view
Greater White-fronted Goose - Range map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant in the eastern part of the state, less common in the west.

Additional Greater White-fronted Goose Photos
Greater White-fronted Goose 1 - Anser albifronsGreater White-fronted Goose 2 - Anser albifronsGreater White-fronted Goose 3 - Anser albifronsGreater White-fronted Goose 4 - Anser albifrons