Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
THE WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE.
[Greater White-fronted Goose.]
ANSER ALBIFRONS, Bechst.
PLATE CCCLXXX.--MALE AND FEMALE.
Neither WILSON nor NUTTALL seem to have been aware of the regularity with
which this species migrates through the United States. When I shewed a drawing
of it to the first of these authors, he pronounced it to be a young Snow Goose,
although I described to him its peculiar notes. During the whole of my
residence in Kentucky, a winter never passed without my seeing a good number of
them; and at that season they are frequently offered for sale in the markets of
New Orleans. An English gentleman, who was on his way to the settlement of
Birkbeck in the prairies west of the Ohio, and who spent a few weeks with me at
Henderson, was desirous of having a tasting of some of our game. His desire was
fully gratified, and the first that was placed before him was a White-fronted
Goose. I had killed seven of these birds the evening before, in a pond across
the Ohio, which was regularly supplied with flocks from the beginning of October
to the end of March. He pronounced it "delicious," and I have no reason to
dissent from his opinion. From the numbers seen high on the Arkansas river, I
presume that many winter beyond the southern limits of the United States. They
are exceedingly rare, however, along our Atlantic coast. In Kentucky they
generally arrive before the Canada Goose, betaking themselves to the grassy
ponds; and of the different species which visit that country they are by far the
least shy. The flock seldom exceed from thirty to fifty individuals. Their
general appearance is that exhibited in the plate, and which I consider as their
winter plumage, feeling pretty confident that in summer the lower part of the
body becomes pure black.
The flight of the White-fronted is very similar to that of the Canada
Goose, being firm and well sustained. When travelling, these birds pass at a
considerable height, arranged in the same angular order, and apparently guided
by one of the older Ganders. They walk with ease, and can run with considerable
speed when wounded. In feeding they immerse their necks, like other species;
but during continued rains they visit the corn-fields and large savannahs.
While in Kentucky they feed on the beech nuts and acorns that drop along the
margins of their favourite ponds. In the fields they pick up the grains of
maize left by the squirrels and racoons, and nibble the young blades of grass.
In their gizzards I have never found fishes nor water lizards, but often broken
shells of different kinds of snails.
They leave us a fortnight sooner than the Canada Geese, and start along
with the Snow Geese, but keep in separate flocks. In this order they have been
observed travelling over the fur countries by Dr. RICHARDSON, who informs us
that they breed in the woody districts skirting Mackenzie's river to the north
of the sixty-seventh parallel, and also on the islands of the Arctic sea; but
that they are not common about Hudson's bay. The egg of this Goose measures two
inches and three-quarters in length, by one and three-quarters in breadth. The
shell is smooth, of a dull yellowish-green, with indistinct patches of a darker
tint of the same colour.
ANSER ALBIFRONS, Bonap. Syn., p. 376.
ANSER ALBIFRONS, Laughing Goose, Swains. and Rich. F. Bor. Amer.,vol. ii. p. 456.
WHITE-FRONTED Goose, Nutt. Man., vol. ii. p. 346.
WHITE-FRONTED Goose, Anser albifrons, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. iii. p. 568.
Male, 27 1/4, 60.
Through the interior of the Western and Southern States during winter, as
well as along the coast, from Massachusetts to Texas, Columbia river. Breeds in
the far north.
Bill shorter than the head, much higher than broad at the base, somewhat
conical, depressed towards the end, rounded at the tip. Upper mandible with the
dorsal line sloping, the ridge broad and flattened, but slightly convex, the
sides sloping, the edges with twenty-eight oblique lamellae, the unguis
circular, convex, obscurely denticulate along the edge. Nasal groove oblong,
parallel to the ride, filled by the soft membrane of the bill; nostrils medial,
lateral, longitudinal, narrow-elliptical, open, pervious. Lower mandible nearly
straight, with the angle very long and rather narrow, the edges soft and obtuse,
with about forty oblique, slightly recurved lamellae.
Head of moderate size, oblong, compressed. Neck rather long and slender.
Body full, slightly depressed. Feet rather short, strong, placed rather behind
the centre of the body; legs bare a little above the joint; tarsus rather short,
a little compressed, covered all round with angular reticulated scales, which
are smaller behind; hind toe very small, with a narrow membrane; third toe
longest, fourth considerably shorter, but longer than second; all the toes
reticulated above at the base, but with narrow transverse scutella towards the
end; the three anterior connected by a reticulated membrane, the outer having a
thick margin, the inner with the margin extended into a two-lobed web; claws
small, arched, rather compressed, obtuse, that of the middle toe bent obliquely
outwards and depressed, with a curved edge.
Plumage close, full, compact above, blended on the neck and lower part of
the body, very short on the head. Feathers of the head and neck very narrow, on
the latter part disposed in oblique series separated by grooves, of the back
very broad and abrupt, of the breast and belly broadly rounded. Wings rather
long, broad; primaries incurved, broad, towards the end tapering, the second
longest, first and third about equal, first and second sinuate on the inner web,
second and third on the outer; secondaries long, very broad, rounded. Tail very
short, rounded, of sixteen broad rounded feathers.
Bill carmine-red, the unguis of both mandibles white. Edges of eyelids
dull orange; iris hazel. Feet orange, webs lighter; claws white. Head and neck
rich greyish-brown, the upper part of the former darker; a white band, margined
behind with blackish-brown on the anterior part of the forehead along the bill.
The general colour of the back is deep grey, the feathers of its fore part
broadly tipped with greyish-brown, the rest with greyish-white; the hind part of
the back pure deep grey. Wings greyish-brown, but towards the edge ash-grey, as
are the primary coverts, and outer webs of the primaries; the rest of the
primaries and the secondaries are greyish-black, the latter with a narrow edge
of greyish-white, the former edged and tipped with white. Breast, abdomen,
lower tail-coverts, sides of the rump and upper tail-coverts, white, but the
breast and sides patched with brownish-black; on the latter intermixed with
Length to end of tail 27 1/4 inches, to end of wings 26, to end of claws
28 7/8; extent of wings 60; wing from flexure 14 1/2; tail 4 3/4; bill along the
back 1 8/12, along the edge of lower mandible 1 7/12; tarsus 2 1/4; middle toe
2 4/12, its claw 5/12. Weight 5 1/2 lbs.
The female, which is somewhat smaller, resembles the male; the white
margins of the wing-feathers not so distinct. Weight 4 lbs. 4 oz.
The gizzard is very large, its muscular coat an inch and a half thick at
the lower extremity, the cuticular lining thick, very hard, and dentictilate on
one side. The intestine seven feet long, the coeca twelve inches, and placed at
the distance of one foot from the anus.