On greater white-fronted goose adults, upperparts are brown with head and neck darker brown; underparts are white to light brown with several to many black horizontal streaks. Bill, legs, and feet are bright pink, and the base of the bill is encircled in white. Immatures lack white at the base of the bill and black bars on underparts. The call is a yelping laughing, yodeling sound, cah-laa-haluk.
Similar species: In flight, Canada and greater white-fronted geese are very similar, but the white-fronts are more agile and buoyant in flight and have narrower wings. Both appear dark from a distance, in most light.
Length: 28 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).
Statewide. More common in the western half of state; it is more common in western North America than in the east.
Habitat and Conservation
Occurs in marshes, waterholes, ponds, lakes, and reservoirs with aquatic vegetation. Often seen foraging in crop fields and pastures. Like other migratory waterfowl, this game species is protected by law. Follow the rules outlined in the Wildlife Code of Missouri.
They forage in cornfields, newly sprouted winter wheat fields, and marshes for grains, roots, grasses, or aquatic vegetation. They also forage in crop fields for grains, or in pastures, marshes, and lakeshores for grasses and sedges. They sometimes forage by dabbling in shallow water, like mallards and dipping ducks, by “tipping up.”
The white-fronted goose has a circumpolar (global) distribution, breeding in northern latitude tundra in North America and all across Eurasia. They migrate to warmer climates in winter, including along parts of the Gulf Coast. This means some of them fly through Missouri. As with many other geese, once mated, pairs stay together for years and migrate in family groups.
Sometimes called the “specklebelly” for the dark markings on the breast. Due to overhunting, this species was in serious decline in North America in the early 20th century. With international, federal, and state game laws protecting waterfowl and their habitat, their populations are healthy today.
Migratory animals play a role in every ecosystem they travel through, as well as in their breeding and overwintering places. Although it takes a fairly large predator to capture an adult goose, the defenseless young and eggs fall prey to a variety of meat-eaters.