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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Greater White-fronted Goose -- Anser albifrons

RANGE: Breeds from northern Alaska south to Bristol Bay and Cook Inlet, and east across northern Yukon, northern Mackenzie and southern Victoria Island to northern Keewatin. Winters from southern British Columbia south along the coastal states; on the Gulf Coast from Texas and Louisiana south to Mexico; and rarely in the lower Mississippi Valley from Missouri southward.

STATUS: Common throughout range.

HABITAT: Inhabits the borders of shallow marshes and lakes, riverbanks and islands, deltas, dry knolls, and hills near rivers and ponds in Arctic tundra. Generally found in areas characterized by dwarf birch, willows, bilberries, crowberries, Labrador tea, cassiope, raspberries, dryas, sedges, horsetails, cottongrasses, bluegrass, fescue, arctic grass, sphagnum moss in depressions, and reindeer moss and cetaria on drier sites. Rests on shallow ponds and sloughs in marshes. Winters in sheltered inland and coastal marshes and on open terrain and pasturelands with small bodies of water.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Wetlands in Arctic tundra.

NEST: Typically nests in depressions on the ground in tall grass bordering tidal sloughs or in sedge marshes, usually within 300 feet of water, or on hummocks along rivers, streams, and lakes. Generally does not nest in colonies but may be found in loose colonies of 15 to 20 pairs in favored locations.

FOOD: Primarily grazes on marsh grasses, freshly sprouted grain in fields, and fresh growth in burned-over pastures. Sometimes feeds heavily on aquatic plants and in grain fields after harvest. In the Arctic, consumes tundra plants, aquatic insects and their larvae, and berries.

REFERENCES: Bellrose 1976, Dzubin et al. 1964, Johnsgard 1975b, Pough 1951, Terres 1980.

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