Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Greater white-fronted goose
Anser albifrons

 

Taxonomy
Occurence in Illinois
Status
Habitat associations
Guilds
Food-habits
Environmental associations
Life history
Management practices
References


TAXONOMY

 

  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Anseriformes
  • Family: Anatidae
  • Genus: Anser
  • Species: Anser albifrons
  • Authority: Scopoli

Comments on taxonomy:
Was known as white-gronted goose; now greater white-fronted goose *06*. Aka speckle belly goose, tule goose, white front *03*; American white fronted goose, laughing goose, harlequin brant, gray brant, pied brant, prairie brant, spectacled brant, speckled brant, yellow- legged goose *04*; speck *05*.

 


OCCURENCE IN ILLINOIS

Occasional migrant. Rare winter resident in south *02*.

 


STATUS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories
Forest Service Categories: S = recommended for regional sensitive status, F = forest listed species, M = management indicator species

Federal Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed for listing
Candidate for proposal Recovery plan approved Recovery plan received (USFWS)
Recovery plan in preparation Under notice of review Delisted
Migratory EPA indicator Forest Serv.- Shawnee species

State Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed

Other:

Game Furbearer Nongame protected
Sportfish Commercial Pest None of the above

Comments on status:
A. albifrons is protected by the Illinois Wildlife Code of 1971 *07* and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 *08*.

 


HABITAT ASSOCIATIONS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories

General habitat:

Unknown Terrestrial Aquatic Riparian

USFS timber inventory forest size class:

Unknown Unstocked Seedling Sapling
Seedling/sapling Pole Mature Over mature

Land use and land cover:

Unknown   Urban Residential
Commercial
Industrial
Transportation, communication
Complex industrial/commercial
Mixed
Other
Agricultural Crop, pasture
Orchards, groves, nurseries
Feedlot
Other
Rangeland Herbaceous
Shrub and brush
Mixed
Forestland Deciduous
Evergreen
Mixed
Water Stream
Lake

Reservoir
Bay
Wetland Forest
Non-forest
Barren Salt flat
Beach
Sand
Rock
Mine
Transit
Mix

Forest cover types: No records.

Associated tree species: No records.

 

National wetland inventory classifications:

SystemSubsystemClassSubclassWater regime modifiersWater chemistry
Lacustrine   Unknown Unknown Unknown/unspecified Unknown/unspecified
Palustrine   Unknown Unknown Unknown/unspecified Unknown/unspecified

 

Comments on species-habitat associations:
Nests on tundra, near marshes, ponds, lakes, rivers *03,10*. Also in swamps, open forest zones, coastal plains *05,09*. Often feeds on agricultural land *09*. Winters on marshes, wet meadows, prairies, fields, lakes, bays *03,10*.

Important plant and animal association: No comments.

High value habitats

HabitatStructural stageSeason
Cropland and pasture Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Streams and canals Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Lakes Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Bays and estuaries Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Forested wetland Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Nonforested wetland Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Tundra Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Prairie Grass - forb All
Wetland Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Marsh Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Swamp Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Sedge meadow Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Lakes and ponds Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Streams Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
River Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Agricultural field Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All

Species-habitat interrelations: Often feeds on agricultural land *07*; nests on tundra *10*; prefers arctic vegetation of low stature near marshes, ponds, rivers, lakes, coastal tundra, gently rolling upland tundra up to 700 feet above sea level; found near willow and shrub lined ponds and streams *03*; tidal flats *05*; nest in tall grass bordering tidal sloughs or in sedge marshes, grass-covered pingos or the margins of tundra hummocks; heath rivrs, tributary streams, and lakes *05*; found in swamps, in open areas in forest zone, on small marine islands *09*; usually places nest on an incline or at the top of a low hill with excellent visibility and grassy cover *03*; in winter prefers coastal marshes, wet meadows, and freshwater marshes *03*; also prairies, fields, lakes, and bays *10*.

 


GUILDS

Feed-guilding: No records.

Comments on feed-guilding:
Graze on ground, in herbaceous vegetation *05,16,17,18*. Feeds on short grass *17*.

 

Breed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonBreed-Guilds
Wetland Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
Spring/summer Terrestrial surface
Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation

 

Comments on breed-guilding:
Nest is shallow depression in the ground lined with grass, feathers, and down *04*; usually places nest on an incline or at the top of a low hill with excellent visibility and grassy cover *03,05*; nest in tall grass bordering tidal sloughs or in sedge marshes, grass-covered pingos or the margins of tundra hummocks; heath tundra 50-100 m from water; over coastal plains nest beside rivers, tributary streams, and lakes *05*.

 


FOOD-HABITS

Trophic level is HERBIVORE

Food itemLife stage/plant part
Plants Roots
Plants Bole/stem
Plants Leaves/needles
Plants Fruit/seeds
Tracheophyta (vascular plants) Roots
Tracheophyta (vascular plants) Bole/stem
Tracheophyta (vascular plants) Leaves/needles
Tracheophyta (vascular plants) Fruit/seeds
Sphenopsida (horsetails) Bole/stem
Angiospermae (flowering plants) Roots
Angiospermae (flowering plants) Bole/stem
Angiospermae (flowering plants) Leaves/needles
Angiospermae (flowering plants) Fruit/seeds
Dicotyledonae (dicots) Fruit/seeds
Fagaceae (beech, oak) Fruit/seeds
Asteraceae (asters) Fruit/seeds
Monocotyledonae (monocots) Fruit/seeds
Typhaceae (cattail) Roots
Hydrocharitaceae (tape grass, water weed) Bole/stem
Hydrocharitaceae (tape grass, water weed) Leaves/needles
Hydrocharitaceae (tape grass, water weed) Fruit/seeds
Araceae (water lettuce) Roots
Araceae (water lettuce) Bole/stem
Araceae (water lettuce) Leaves/needles
Poaceae (grass) Bole/stem
Poaceae (grass) Leaves/needles
Poaceae (grass) Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): corn Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): rice Bole/stem
Poaceae (grass): rice Leaves/needles
Poaceae (grass): rice Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): wheat Bole/stem
Poaceae (grass): wheat Leaves/needles
Poaceae (grass): wheat Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): barley Bole/stem
Poaceae (grass): barley Leaves/needles
Poaceae (grass): barley Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): broom corn, sorghum Bole/stem
Poaceae (grass): broom corn, sorghum Leaves/needles
Poaceae (grass): broom corn, sorghum Fruit/seeds
Cyperaceae (bulrush, sedge) Unknown
Mollusca Adult
Mollusca: Gastropoda (snails) Adult
Insecta Adult
Important:
Plants Fruit/seeds
Juvenile:
Plants Roots
Plants Bole/stem
Plants Leaves/needles
Plants Fruit/seeds
Angiospermae (flowering plants) Roots
Angiospermae (flowering plants) Bole/stem
Angiospermae (flowering plants) Leaves/needles
Angiospermae (flowering plants) Fruit/seeds
Dicotyledonae (dicots) Fruit/seeds
Monocotyledonae (monocots) Fruit/seeds
Typhaceae (cattail) Roots
Hydrocharitaceae (tape grass, water weed) Fruit/seeds
Araceae (water lettuce) Roots
Araceae (water lettuce) Bole/stem
Araceae (water lettuce) Leaves/needles
Poaceae (grass) Bole/stem
Poaceae (grass) Leaves/needles
Poaceae (grass) Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): corn Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): rice Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): wheat Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): barley Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): broom corn, sorghum Fruit/seeds
Cyperaceae (bulrush, sedge) Unknown
Adult:
Plants Roots
Plants Bole/stem
Plants Leaves/needles
Plants Fruit/seeds
Tracheophyta (vascular plants) Roots
Tracheophyta (vascular plants) Bole/stem
Tracheophyta (vascular plants) Leaves/needles
Tracheophyta (vascular plants) Fruit/seeds
Sphenopsida (horsetails) Bole/stem
Angiospermae (flowering plants) Roots
Angiospermae (flowering plants) Bole/stem
Angiospermae (flowering plants) Leaves/needles
Angiospermae (flowering plants) Fruit/seeds
Dicotyledonae (dicots) Fruit/seeds
Fagaceae (beech, oak) Fruit/seeds
Asteraceae (asters) Fruit/seeds
Monocotyledonae (monocots) Fruit/seeds
Typhaceae (cattail) Roots
Hydrocharitaceae (tape grass, water weed) Bole/stem
Hydrocharitaceae (tape grass, water weed) Leaves/needles
Hydrocharitaceae (tape grass, water weed) Fruit/seeds
Araceae (water lettuce) Roots
Araceae (water lettuce) Bole/stem
Araceae (water lettuce) Leaves/needles
Poaceae (grass) Bole/stem
Poaceae (grass) Leaves/needles
Poaceae (grass) Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): corn Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): rice Bole/stem
Poaceae (grass): rice Leaves/needles
Poaceae (grass): rice Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): wheat Bole/stem
Poaceae (grass): wheat Leaves/needles
Poaceae (grass): wheat Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): barley Bole/stem
Poaceae (grass): barley Leaves/needles
Poaceae (grass): barley Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass): broom corn, sorghum Bole/stem
Poaceae (grass): broom corn, sorghum Leaves/needles
Poaceae (grass): broom corn, sorghum Fruit/seeds
Cyperaceae (bulrush, sedge) Unknown
Mollusca Adult
Mollusca: Gastropoda (snails) Adult
Insecta Adult

Comments on food habits: 
General: Vegetarian *13*; foods include horsetails (Equisetum), cottongrass, grasses, herbs, sedge, wheat, rice, barley, bulrushes, root stalks of cattails *13*; beechnuts, acorns, grain, young blades of grass, sorghum *05*; berries, insects, mollusks *09*; eats primarily seeds but also eats stems and blades of salt grass *05*; often feeds on agricultural land *09*.
Juvenile: No comments.
Adult: See [FH] gen. & imp. food habits.


ENVIRONMENTAL ASSOCIATIONS

General:

  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Water level: permanent
  • Water level: seasonally flooded
  • Elevation: 0-100 ft.
  • Elevation: 100-300 ft.
  • Elevation: 300-500 ft.
  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: coastal marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: pool areas
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Meadows: unknown
  • Shrubs: unknown
  • Grasses: see comments
  • Agricultural crops: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: pond pioneer aquatic vegetation
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries
  • Unknown

Egg

  • Unknown

Feeding juvenile:

  • Aquatic habitats: pool areas
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Agricultural crops: see comments
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Feeding adult:

  • Aquatic habitats: pool areas
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Agricultural crops: see comments
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Comments on environmental associations:
General: Feed in grain fields: wheat, rice, barley, corn, sorghum *03,04,05, 09*.
Feeding juvenile: May feed on aquatic vegetation *05,13,14*. Feed on variety of cultivated grain plants *05,13,14,15,16,17,18*.
Feeding adult: Feed on cultivated grains *05,13,14,15,16,17,18*. Feed on aquatic vegetation *05,13,14*.


LIFE HISTORY

Origin: Native *02*.

Physical description: Adult: head and neck: brownish gray, white band around front of face at base of bill and on chin, bordered behind with blackish; bill: pink, pale bluish at base, tapering to tip; nail: white or whitish; eye: brown; back: grayish brown, feathers with paler tips; lower back and rump: dark brown to slaty brown; scapulars: like back; chest: ashy gray to grayish brown, breast: grayish with irregularly splashed dusky brown or black; belly and flanks: white; sides: like back, but pale feather tips broader, upper edges of longer side feathers: white, producing a white line along sides; feet: orange or yellowish; tail: like rump and tipped with white; under surface of tail: light to dark gray; upper and under coverts: white; wings coverts: graysih brown, middle covers tipped with ashy white; primaries: black, ashy gray basally with whitish shafts; secondaries: dusky brown; tertials: brownish, margined outwardly with white, inner webs, brownish black; lining and axillars: slate gray *18*; juveniles: more uniform gray and paler below; lacks white face patch; pale feather tips may be narrow or absent; no black cross hatches on breast; white tail feathers mixed with grayish brown; bill: dull yellowish or gray with purple tinge; nail: dusky *11*; folded wing: males=380-474 mm, female=368-440 mm; culmen: male= 42-63 mm, female=42-62 mm; weight: male=2400-3200 g, female=1700-3000 g *03*; length: 750 mm *10*.

Reproduction: Breeds from may-june *05*; incubation lasts 23 days *03*; incubation by female only, spends more time on nest as incubation progresses *05*; brood size=3.4 average *05*; sexual maturity: form pair bonds at 2 years, breed at 3 years *03*; breeding behavior: hostile encounters and associated triumph ceremony behavior serves to form pair bonds and maintain family bonds; copulation proceded by mutual head dipping and followed by mutual calling and wing lifting *03*; displays include diagonal neck, forward, and vibration of neck feathers as a lateral threat *12*; monogamous with permanent pair bonds *03*; clutch size: 3-7 eggs with yearly variations related to weather during nesting; lays one egg per day *03*; eggs: white, 125 g, 76 x 54 mm *03*.

Behavior: Territoriality: do not nest in colonies, not highly territorial, most of defense by non-breeding yearlings who lure animals away from the nest site *05*; migration: flies in v-shaped formation *04*; first geese to appear on southern areas *05*; fall: reach staging areas in august and are gone by october, reach wintering areas from september-november *05*; spring: leave in early february and continue through march; return to general vicinity of last year's nest but do not nest in exactly the same place *05*; associate with other species on migration *09*; uses pre-flight lateral head-shake *12*; agile in flight *09*; vegetarian *13*; foods include horsetails (equisetum), cottongrass, grasses, herbs, sedge, wheat, rice, barley, bulrushes, root stalks of cattails *08*; beechnuts, acorns, grain, young blades of grass, sorghum *05*; berries, insects, mollusks *09*; eats primarily seeds but also eats stems and blades of salt grass *05*; often feeds on agricultural land *09*; nests on tundra *10*; prefers arctic vegetation of low stature near marshes, ponds, rivers, lakes, coastal tundra, gently rolling upland tundra up to 700 feet above sea level; found near willow and shrub lined ponds and streams *03*; tidal flats *05*; nest in tall grass bordering tidal sloughs or in sedge marshes, grass-covered pingos or the margins of tundra hummocks; heath tundra 50-100 m from water; over coastal plains they nest beside rivers, tributary streams, and lakes *05*; found in swamps, in open areas in forest zone, on small marine islands *09*; usually places nest on an incline or at the top of a low hill with excellent visibility and grassy cover *03*; nest is shallow depression in the ground lined with grass, feathers, and down *04*; down added to nest as construction proceeds *05*; arrive on breeding grounds shortly after they become free of snow; accompanying each pair are their young from last year and sometimes their two year olds; two-year olds do not become territorial and soon leave the area; yearlings remain close to parents and provide defense against predators and intruders; pairs widely scattered *03*; male stands guard during incubation *09*; within 24 hours of hatching goslings are led to water, broods raised in areas with an abundance of sedge vegetation, used as cover from predators *03*; fledgling period: 5 weeks *03*; male assumes dominant role in brood life *05*; adults undergo 35 day flightless period after young hatch *03*; during first week young become easily separated from the parents and mortality is high *05*; in winter: prefers coastal marshes, wet meadows, and freshwater marshes *03*; also prairies, fields, lakes, and bays *10*; as winter proceeds, large flocks spread into small groups of pairs and families *03*; yearlings and subadults molt first; gather in traditional areas; adults molt when broods are 3 weeks old *05*.

Limiting factors: Predators: jaegars, gulls *03*. Diseases and parasites: general reference *24,25*; bacterial: chlamydiosis *06*; cholera *23,27*; helminths: nematodes *22*; protozoan: coccidia *20*; miscellaneous *21*.

Population parameters: Predators: jaegars, gulls; geese are large enough to guard against them, nests scattered and well concealed; weather has a greater effect on nesting success *03*; North American population=200,000 (1955-1974) *03*; age ratio: average 39% young *05*;mortality=34% for all birds *05*.

 


MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Beneficial:

  • Developing/maintaining lakes and ponds
  • Developing/maintaining wetlands
  • Haying/mowing
  • Controlled grazing of domestic livestock
  • Seeding aquatic plants
  • Regulating harvest of animal being described
  • Regulating hunting
  • Providing seasonal supplemental feeding
  • Developing/maintaining food plots
  • Developing/maintaining water holes, ponds, potholes, etc.

Adverse:

  • Dredging
  • Draining ponds/lakes
  • Draining wetlands
  • Uncontrolled grazing by domestic livestock

Existing:

  • Regulating harvest of animal being described
  • Regulating hunting

Comments on management practices:
For hunting dates on A. albifrons see 1984 waterfowl hunting information, IDOC *19*. The daily bag limit of geese is five per day, which may not include more than two greater white-fronted geese. The possession limit is ten, which may not include more than four greater white-fronted geese *19*. Lead shot may cause lead poisoning if it is ingested with food. Use of steel shot benefits waterfowl *12*. For non-toxic shot zones in Illinois see 1984 waterfowl hunting information *19*.


REFERENCES

0. GRIBKO, L. AND C. FOSTER, 101 CHEATHAM HALL, BLACKSBURG, VA. 24061.

1. MISSOURI DEPT. CONSERVATION.

2. BOHLEN, H.D. 1975. AN ANNOTATED CHECK-LIST OF THE BIRDS OF ILLINOIS. ILLINOIS STATE MUSEUM POP. SCI. SERIES. VOL. IX. 156 PP.

3. JOHNSGARD, P.A. 1978. DUCKS, GEESE, AND SWANS OF THE WORLD. UNIV. NEBRASKA PRESS, LINCOLN.

4. UNKNOWN. 1936. BIRDS OF AMERICA. PEARSON, G.T., ED. GARDEN CITY PUBL. CO., GARDEN CITY, N.Y.

5. BELLROSE, R.C. 1978. DUCKS, GEESE, AND SWANS OF NORTH AMERICA. 2ND ED. STACKPOLE BOOKS, HARRISBURG, PENN.

6. AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGISTS' UNION. 1983. CHECK-LIST OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. 6TH ED. ALLEN PRESS, INC. LAWRENCE, KN. 877 PP.

7. ILLINOIS DEPT. CONSERVATION. 1980. CONSERVATION LAWS. CH. 61. WILDLIFE ART. II. PAR. 2.2. REPRINTED FROM ILLINOIS REVISED STATUTES, 1979. WEST. PUBL. CO., ST. PAUL, MN. 120 PP.

8. U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE. 1983. CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS. TITLE 50. WILDLIFE & FISHERIES CHAPTER 1 PP. 11-18 50 CFR 10.13. LIST OF MIGRATORY BIRDS SPECIAL PUBL. FED. REGISTER GENERAL SERVICES ADMIN. OCT. 1.

9. SOOTHILL, E., AND P. WHITEHEAD. 1978. WILDFOWL OF THE WORLD. BLANDFORD PRESS.

10. PETERSON, R.T. 1980. A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS; A COMPLETELY NEW GUIDE TO ALL THE BIRDS OF EASTERN AND CENTRAL NORTH AMERICA. 4TH ED. HOUGHTON MIFFLIN CO., BOSTON, MASS.

11. KORTRIGHT, F.H. 1967. THE DUCKS, GEESE, AND SWANS OF NORTH AMERICA. STACKPOLE BOOKS, HARRISBURG, PENN.

12. JOHNSGARD, P.A. 1965. HANDBOOK OF WATERFOWL. CORNELL UNIV. PRESS, ITHACA, N.Y.

13. 03M

14. 04M

15. 05M

16. 09M

17. 10M

18. 11M

19. ILLINOIS DEPT. OF CONSERVATION. 1984. 1984 WATERFOWL HUNTING INFORMATION. ILLINOIS DEPT. CONSERV., SPRINGFIELD, IL. PAMPHLET.

20. TODD, K.S., JR., AND D.M. HAMMOND. 1971. COCCIDIA OF ANSERIFORMES. GALLIFORMES, AND PASSERIFORMES. PAGES 234-281 INFECTIOUS AND PARASITIC DISEASES OF WILD BIRDS. DAVIS, J.W., R.C. ANDERSON, L. KARSTAD, AND D.O. TRAINER, EDS. THE IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY, AMES, IOWA.

21. MACNEILL, A.C., AND T. BARNARD. 1978. NECROPSY RESULTS IN FREE-FLYING AND CAPTIVE ANADIDAE IN BRITISH COLUMBIA. CAN. VET. J. 19:17-21.

22. WEHR, E.E. 1971. NEMATODES. PAGES 185-233 INFECTIOUS AND PARASITIC DISEASES OF WILD BIRDS. DAVIS, J.W., R.C. ANDERSON, L. KARSTAD, AND D.O. TRAINER, EDS. THE IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY, AMES, IOWA.

23. ROSEN, M.N. 1972. THE 1970-1971 AVIAN CHOLERA EPORNITIC'S IMPACT ON CERTAIN SPECIES. J. WILDL. DIS. 8:75-78.

24. GRAY, M.L. 1958. LISTERIOSIS IN FOWLS - A REVIEW. AVIAN DIS. 2:296- 314.

25. WOBESER, G.A. 1981. DISEASES OF WILD WATERFOWL.

26. BURKHART, R.L., AND L.A. PAGE. 1971. CHLAMYDIOSIS (ORNITHOSIS- PSITTACOSIS). PAGES 118-140 INFECTIOUS AND PARASITIC DISEASES OF WILD BIRDS. DAVIS, J.W., R.C. ANDERSON, L. KARSTAD, AND D.O. TRAINER, EDS. THE IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY, AMES, IOWA.

27. ROSEN, M.N. 1971. AVIAN CHOLERA. PAGES 59-74 INFECTIOUS AND PARASITIC DISEASES OF WILD BIRDS. DAVIS, J.W., R.C. ANDERSON, L. KARSTAD, AND D.O. TRAINER, EDS. THE IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY, AMES, IOWA.

 


 

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