By Stephen Burk
Greater White-fronted Geese breed during summer in the far northern reaches of North America. Fall migration (mostly October through December) finds them traveling in large numbers to winter grounds, especially in the Central Valley of California, as well as eastern Texas and the coastal Gulf of Mexico region. This medium-sized, brown goose occasionally can be seen in small numbers during winter on our Prescott lakes. Adult Greater White-fronted Geese have pink bills, a distinctive white band encircling the base of the bill, and dark lines/speckles on the belly. They are smaller than most Canada geese, being about the size of a Snow goose.
While seeing Greater White-fronted geese in the Prescott area can be challenging even for avid birders, one can definitely improve their chances by joining the Prescott Audubon Society and taking advantage of their PAS Rare Bird hotline. Another highly useful birding resource to be aware of is the website eBird.Org. eBird collects observations daily from birders around the globe in a massive citizen-science effort, yielding a unique avian database on species populations and planet-wide biodiversity.
Perhaps a word of caution should be injected here. Before rushing to your computer to report your identification of Greater White-fronted Geese at a Prescott location, be aware that there are domestic geese that look quite similar to GWFG. These Graylag (barnyard) geese have been residents at Watson Lake for a number of years and have been mistaken many times for GWFG. By use of a bird identification field guide such as “Sibley’s Birds,” and careful study of the generally easily viewed Graylag geese, you’ll be well prepared when you do encounter the elegant Greater White-fronted geese in our area. Good birding.
Visit Prescott Audubon Society at PrescottAudubon.Org. Contact them at Contact@PrescottAudubon.Org.
Stephen Burk is retired with a Ph.D. in atmospheric physics, has been a PAS board member and field trip coordinator, as well as Yavapai County eBird reviewer for six years.