Greenland and Russian White-fronted Geese

Inspired by Wild Geese!

Martin Garner and Brett Richards

A local double act. Our juices flowing a this rare opportunity to study- a few notes:

Two species, one Old World one new World. One OK, the other declining. Full of all the question about modern identification taxonomy, conservation and bird lore.

Two species, one Old World one new World. One OK, the other declining. Full of all the question about modern identification taxonomy, conservation and bird lore.

Adult Greenland White-front  a couple of weeks ago. Lots more HERE on flavirostris, albifrons and frontalis White-fronted Geese. (Vagrancy, Identification Taxonomy).

Brett then went a pulled a wonder with an adult Russian White-front which had found and joined the Greenland.  So much for all that ‘carrier’ goose stuff. It can be about right (giant monotypic flock, one vagrant) and utter unreadable (lone birds do whatever, move around, change flocks/species etc- seen it again and again).

Headlines on Greenland Whitefronts.

First Record. Apparently the first Flamborough record. In 50 years at Spurn:  1 in 1972 and 3 in 2013 (per Tim Jones). So scarce/ rare on English East Coast away from Northumberland. Nationally rarity  (?) across North Sea in Netherlands.

Better as a Full Species. Ecological studies in 2002 suggest the Greenland birds should probably be considered a separate species from A. albifrons. Unusually long period of parental care and association, which may last several years and can include grandparenting, possibly uniquely among the Anseriformes.

BWP Editor’s note. In BWP, the Greenland White-fronted Goose was treated as a subspecies of the White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons. Since that time, a great deal of ecological and behavioural work has been undertaken on this distinctive taxon, and it was felt that flavirostris merited an account of its own. In the light of the emerging data that highlight its distinctive nature, it seems increasingly likely that the Greenland form will be recognized as a species in its own right. Consequently, it has been decided that a separate account of the Greenland White-fronted Goose should be published at this time. Although there is ongoing research into the other forms of A. albifrons, it is unlikely that an Update of the full species will be available in the near future.

Key Differences between Greenland and Russian birds (scroll down and see photos!)

A few not great but OK shots in tricky conditions:

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 03.34.04

Oily and dark Greenland on right. Large than the Russian, similar sized to other North American forms with more marsh/tuber feeding habits and grass gazers of the Old World.

W fronts both
WF 1

Blurry flight but shows the more Pink-footed Goose-like grey caste of the Russian on the left with broader white tail tip ‘flaring’ into the dark. Smooth mocha Greenland on right with crisp tail pattern.

Greenland wf MG 15th feb

The Greenlander. A Conservation concern, seemingly outcompeted by Canada Geese (interior) and declining.

Some video. Close -ups near end. but windy!

 

Greenland (flavirostris) above and Russian (albifrons) below. Check out their bits.

Greenland (flavirostris) above and Russian (albifrons) below. Check out their bits.

Greenland (flavirostris) LEFT and Russian (albifrons) RIGHT .

Greenland (flavirostris) LEFT and Russian (albifrons) RIGHT .

Greenland in LEFT, Russian on RIGHT.

Greenland in LEFT, Russian on RIGHT.

Greenland (flavirostris) showing  ore extensive black on underparts (into) vent) than any other white-front taxon.

Greenland (flavirostris) showing ore extensive black on underparts (into) vent) than any other white-front taxon.

Russian from below to compare

Russian from below to compare

Compare and Contrast. Key Differences in Appearance e.g. see in photos above (from excellent wikipedia article with corrections…).

The Greenland white-fronted goose, in all plumages, looks darker and more ‘oily-looking’ than the European white-fronted goose, both at rest and in flight.:

1) The mantle and scapulars of flavirostris have narrow, indistinct pale fringes creating a uniform appearance to the birds’ upperparts, whereas albifrons has noticeable whitish fringes creating obviously barred upperparts

2) The tertials of flavirostris have indistinct pale fringes, whereas these pale fringes are more noticeable on albifrons3) The lesser- and median-upperwing-coverts of flavirostris have narrow, indistinct pale fringes, creating a rather uniform appearance to the wing, whereas on albifrons, these fringes are prominent and broad, creating wing-bars

4) The greater-coverts of flavirostris are dark grey, with a narrow white tip, forming a narrow wing-bar; on albifrons they are blue-grey, with prominent white tips, forming a bold wing-bar
5) The flank-line is narrows and white on flavirostris, but broad and bright white on albifrons
6) The tail of flavirostris is dark brown, with a very narrow white tip and sides; that of albifrons is dark grey, and the white tip and sides are at least double the width of the corresponding areas on flavirostris
7) The bill of flavirostris is orange-yellow (with a dark nail in juvs), compared with the bright pink bill of albifrons (dark on the nail in juvs); in addition the bill of flavirostris is longer and appears slimmer than that of albifrons
8) The belly-barring on adult birds is on average more extensive on flavirostris than on albifrons, but the individual variation in both forms renders this of limited use as an identification feature.

The bill of adult Greenland white-fronts are also orange-yellow at the base, but can be more pinkish-yellow on the outer-half, thus close in colour to European white-fronts; the colour difference is more easily determined in dull, flat light rather than bright sunshine

4 thoughts on “Greenland and Russian White-fronted Geese

  1. Pingback: White-fronted Geese. Stunning Photo Set. | Birding Frontiers

  2. brad robson

    I monitor Greenlands in Fermanagh and Donegal; an effect of the more pinkish outer bill of flavirostris is that it can appear more pink especially when viewed head on (despite being clearly orange in profile), this has caused confusion on occasion when albifrons birds have turned up

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Blog Birding #223 « ABA Blog

  4. Pingback: Taiga White-fronted Goose In Britain | Birding Frontiers

Leave a Reply