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Greater White-fronted Goose Life History


Lakes and Ponds

Greater White-fronted Geese breed in the tundra near wetlands, rivers, and ponds. During migration they forage in wet sedge meadows, tidal mudflats, ponds, lakes, and wetlands. In the winter they frequently roost on open lakes and ponds at night. During the day they feed in barley, oat, corn, rice, and wheat fields or on ponds and lakes.

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Greater White-fronted Geese eat primarily sedges, grasses, berries, and plant tubers during the summer and seeds, grain, and grasses in the winter. They peck at vegetation and stems, plucking tubers, seeds, or grains from plants. In the water they peck at emergent vegetation and submerge their head to reach underwater plants.

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Nest Placement


Greater White-fronted Geese nest on the ground in areas with dense patches of grass, sedge, and dwarf shrubs. Females choose a spot in wetter areas near lakeshores and wetland areas, but they also nest in drier upland tundra.

Nest Description

Female Greater White-fronted Geese make a scrape in the ground and weave in surrounding grasses and sedges to form a bowl. They line the nest with plant material and down feathers.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:1-8 eggs
Number of Broods:1 brood
Egg Length:3.1-3.3 in (8-8.3 cm)
Egg Width:2.1-2.1 in (5.3-5.4 cm)
Incubation Period:22-27 days
Nestling Period:1-2 days
Egg Description:

White to tan, stained during incubation.

Condition at Hatching:

Covered with down and eyes open. Leaves nest within 24 hours of hatching.

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Greater White-fronted Geese are strong fliers that fly in single file or in "V" formation. They typically call in flight—a high-pitched laugh. When they are ready to come in for a landing they teeter from side to side similar to a falling leaf. They pick grain from fields, graze on grass, and nibble on underwater vegetation by tipping up like a dabbling duck. Outside of the breeding season, Greater White-fronted Geese are social birds and often gather in groups. On the breeding grounds they defend the nest site, threatening intruders in a bent-over posture with the neck stretched straight out. On some occasions males may physically attack each other. Greater White-fronted Geese form long-term pair bonds and stay together year-round. Pairs are often accompanied by their young for the first year or more, and the young often help their parents defend the nest. Juveniles don't breed until they are around 2.5 years old, at which point they leave the family group. Greater White-fronted Geese return to the same breeding area year after year and often return to the same wintering area.

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Low Concern

Greater White-fronted Geese are common and their populations were fairly stable from 2007 to 2016, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 2.1 million. The species rates an 8 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, which means it is not on the Partners in Flight Watch List and is a species of low conservation concern. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service carefully manages duck and goose hunting and limit the number of individuals hunters can take every year based on population size. In the United States from 2012 to 2016 hunters took an average of 269,000 Greater White-fronted Geese per year.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (2017). Waterfowl Population Status, 2017. U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, D.C. USA.

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