The Greater White-fronted Goose is a springtime visitor to Idaho. It is occasionally seen in Eastern Idaho so check out flocks of Canada Geese and Snow Geese for this bird.
Whoever named the Greater White-fronted Goose as such was accurate but lacking in creativity. It is easy to accept the scientific name, Anser albifrons , where albifrons literally means white front, as that is what scientific names are for. The common name of Greater White-fronted Goose is too utilitarian, a naming tactic too often used in the bird world.
The Greater White-fronted Goose is a medium-sized goose, slightly larger than a snow goose. It has a gray-brown body with variable black striping on the chest and belly with white undertail coverts. Feet and legs are orange, but the bill is pinkish. The name comes from the white patch that extends from bill to forehead.
There is a Greater White-fronted Goose because of its diminutive cousin, the Lesser White-fronted Goose. They are quite similar but separated geographically from North America. The Lesser White-fronted Goose is native to Asia and Europe and is only occasionally seen on Attu Island, Alaska.
This goose has one of the largest ranges of any goose. It breeds across the tundra near the Arctic Ocean from Nunavut in Canada’s Northwest Territories counterclockwise around the globe all the way to Greenland. Canadian and Alaskan birds winter in southeast Texas, Louisiana and Mexico and from Vancouver, Washington down through California’s central valley. The only part of our country that isn’t a seasonal home or flyover state for this bird is east of the Mississippi River.
One thing I really appreciate about Greater White-fronted Geese is their strong family bonds. Like most geese, they are monogamous and form pair bonds that last for years. Their family bonds last longer though. Juveniles may stay with parents through the following breeding season and familial associations with siblings and parents may last a lifetime.
And a lifetime might be a long time. The oldest Greater White-fronted Goose on record was banded in 1975 in Nunavut and the band was recovered in Louisiana in 1998, making it at least 25 and a half years old.
Migrants are pouring into Southwest Idaho right now. We saw lots of White-fronted Geese in and around Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area near Parma this past weekend, along with what I am confident amounted to 100,000 snow geese.
Can you see Greater White-fronted Geese in Eastern Idaho? While we are just outside identified migration corridors for this species, there have been reported sightings within the past five years. The secret to finding them is to not assume that goose-sized dark-colored birds you see are all Canada Geese. White-fronted Geese like shallow water and also spend a lot of time in the fields just like Canada Geese. Use your binoculars and look for the white face. It is distinctive and hard to confuse with other similar-sized birds.
There is more to this sedately handsome goose than a just a white forehead. It deserves a more elegant name more in keeping with its heritage and good looks than its common name implies. Its image would benefit from something more engaging or charismatic. At least a name like the Steadfast Goose would capture its allegiance to family.
Donate part of your tax return to support wildlife in Idaho!
On the second page of the Idaho Individual Tax form 40 you have the opportunity to donate to the “Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund”.
Check-off this box on your next return or ask your tax preparer to mark the Nongame check-off on your behalf.
If you are not from Idaho, check with your own state wildlife agency about how you can help. Many states have a similar program.
Help Idaho Wildlife
Sadly, when we traveled across the state in October, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates.
C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles!
See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live.
Wildlife License Plates
Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.
No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.
Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.
Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program. Go figure.
"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson
That is embarrassing but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.
Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.
Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.
"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman
"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.
To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version
Copies are also available at:
Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls
Perfect Light Photo Supply
Museum of Idaho
Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming
Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah
Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho