Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Greater White-fronted Goose - Anser albifrons
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General Comments The Greater White-fronted Goose is a rare (but increasing) winter visitor across all portions of the state, but with the majority of records from the northeastern portion of the state, at refuges where large numbers of waterfowl occur -- such as Mattamuskeet, Pungo, and Pea Island. Actually, the geese are more easily found (or visible) feeding in corn fields away from the refuges proper, than sitting on the water at refuge lakes and impoundments. At any rate, they usually occur with other geese, particularly with Canada Geese. Reports across the state are increasing in recent years, especially in the western half of the Piedmont and mountains. Interestingly, our largest one-day count came from the mountains, in 2013.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Winter visitor, though not a winter resident (yet) like Ross's Goose and Cackling Goose. Most frequent in areas where large numbers of geese and swans winter. Rare in the northeastern portion of the region, such as Mattamuskeet NWR, Pungo refuge, and Pea Island NWR; very rare south of Hyde and Dare. Away from the coast and the Pamlimarle Peninsula, there are apparently just four records: one at Edenton (Chowan), 1-30 Nov 1997; one at Whispering Pines (Moore), 20 Nov 2001 - 10 Feb 2002; one on the Southern Pines CBC, 18 Dec 2005; and two at Lake Wilson (Wilson), 17 Feb 2017. Mainly from late Oct to late Mar. Peak counts: 19-20 at Alligator River NWR, winter 2007-08; 19, Mason Inlet (New Hanover), 19 Nov 2017; 14, Pettigrew SP (Washington), 27 Dec 2017; 12, Mattamuskeet NWR, 29 Dec 2017; 11, central Washington, 17 Feb 2018; 10, Lake Mattamuskeet, 29 Dec 2003 - 24 Jan 2004.
Piedmont Winter visitor; very rare to now rare, somewhat increasing in recent years. Approximately 41 records, falling between early Nov and and very early Apr, sparingly to mid-Apr; however, one seen at Bur Mil Park in Greensboro from 19 Apr - 2 May 2015 was exceptionally late, as was one just west of Winston-Salem until 8 May 2020. Out of season was one on Lake Hickory on 27-28 Jul 2012. Peak counts: 18, on 16 Feb 2016 along the Yadkin River Greenway in North Wilkesboro (Wilkes); 17 in Polk on 13 Jan 2018; 16, on 15 Feb 2021 near the Yadkin River in Ronda (Wilkes); 12, on 16 Feb 1997 at Concord (Cabarrus).
Mountains Winter visitor, notably increasing in recent years. Now rare in the southern mountains; no records from the northern half of the province. About 34 records, nearly all from Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Swain, and Transylvania, from 1 Nov to 3 May, with the exception of odd summer records from Haywood from 23 Jun - 11 Jul 2012 and also on 26 Jul and 23 Aug 2018. Peak counts: 41 (photographed in flight), over Sandy Mush Game Land (Buncombe), 1 Nov 2013; 30, Brevard (Transylvania), 11-22 Feb 2015; 24, Mills River Water Treatment Plant (Henderson), 25-28 Jan 2020; 17, Ecusta Pond (Transylvania), 1-7 Feb 2017; 10, near Mills River (Henderson), 19 Feb - 12 Mar 2011, with this flock being first noted in nearby Transylvania, where 6 were seen on 18 Feb 2011.
Finding Tips There is a tendency for the species to appear with flocks of Canada Geese, both feeding in plowed fields and resting or feeding at impoundments or other ponds. Your best chances are to search for it in fields on Pungo refuge and in the extensive grain fields near Lake Mattamuskeet, where farmers leave much corn in fields for geese and swans. The pond/fields where US 64 meets Beasley Road in central Washington has been productive in the past few winters. The important point: carefully check flocks of Snow Geese and Canada Geese for rarer goose species -- Greater White-fronted, Cackling, and Ross's.
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Attribution LeGrand[2024-02-08], LeGrand[2023-08-09], LeGrand[2023-05-17]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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