Greater and White-Fronted

Greater white-fronted geese from Crossley ID Guide to Eastern Birds (image form Wikimedia Commons)

28 November 2022

Over the Thanksgiving weekend 6 greater white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons) showed up in western Pennsylvania — four in Lawrence County and four in Armstrong County.

Though they breed in the arctic around the world, the North American population stays west of the Mississippi. These geese are rare in Pennsylvania.

Range map of greater white-fronted goose embedded from

Their “greater” and “white-fronted” adjectives don’t make much sense unless you know the species they resemble in Europe.

They are “greater” because they are larger than the lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus) that occurs only in Eurasia and is now Vulnerable to extinction.

They are “white-fronted” because they have white feathers on their faces surrounding their beaks, a field mark that distinguishes them from the similar greylag goose (Anser anser), another Eurasian species.

Greater white-fronted goose (detail from the Crossley ID Guide Eastern Birds, arrow added to indicate white front)

Only a handful of greater white-fronted geese are seen in western Pennsylvania in any given year, and then only in late October through early March.

If you see a goose that resembles this one check its field marks carefully. It may be an odd domestic goose, described here:

(images from Wikimedia Commons, map embedded from

2 thoughts on “Greater and White-Fronted

  1. Kate,
    If you meant the ones in Armstrong County were somewhere other than Crooked Creek there WERE 4 at Crooked Creek for about 5 days – did not see them yesterdAY BUT it was hard to tell as very foggy and misty and rained off and on so I could not see the different groups of Canada Geese very well with my binoculars and I took a few photos and they are not in them as I played around with lighting, etc; to see the ones I had captured better; No biggie just wondered if the 2 were somewhere else;

    1. Thanks, Marge, for the update. I saw only 2 reported in eBird. I’ve updated the blog to 4.

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