Every goose that has some white on the forehead is not necessarily a white-fronted goose, nor does the absence of white in that part disqualify a bird for the title; for the grey-lag often shows a little white at the base of the bill, and young white-fronted geese have none, but are rather darker there than elsewhere.
The real distinctive points are the combination of orange legs with a yellow or flesh-coloured or pink bill, changing after death to orange, but in any case without any black on it. The body-colour of this bird is much browner than in the grey goose, and the size much smaller as a rule, large specimens weighing little over five pounds. The beak is also smaller in proportion, measuring only two inches, while the grey-lag's is two and a half to three.
The white front, when fully developed in adult birds, is in the form of a broad band across the forehead and bordering the base of the beak; in adult birds also the belly has transverse black markings, often so pronounced that this part is practically all black.
The white-fronted goose is with us a rare winter visitor, but may turn up anywhere in our northern territories, from Sind to Burma. It is met with by itself, not along with other geese, although only found singly or in twos and threes. Three, for instance, was the number observed and shot by Hume on his first record of the species in November, 1874; these birds were shot on the Jhelum, and one of them, which was only wounded, led him a literal wild-goose chase before being secured, twice rising and flying off strongly for a long distance before he finally got it, to the great disgust of his men, who, as he says, " were tired of plodding through the loose sand; all objected to going further after this goose. In the first place they declared he had flown away altogether out of sight; in the second place they said I might have killed a dozen geese during the time I had wasted over this one wounded bird, which was, moreover, a very small one. There was almost a mutiny, but I had marked the bird precisely and insisted on going up to the spot," when the deplorable disregard for science exhibited by these benighted natives was punished by the goose's opportune appearance just as it was despaired of even by their master.
These specimens proved to have " fed entirely on some species of wild rice, and on tender green shoots of some grass or grain "—the ordinary food of geese, in fact. Indeed, there is nothing special about the habits of this species to record, though its cry is rather different from that of the grey goose, being often compared to laughter ; in fact, laughing goose is a well-known name for it. "When in India it has usually been found to frequent rivers. It ranges all across the Northern Hemisphere in high latitudes, though the American birds, which are larger than the Old World ones, are nowadays commonly referred to a so-called species, Anser gambeli. Should this large, and especially large-billed, form turn up here, the entirely light bill will distinguish it from all our large species except the grey-lag, and the orange feet from that. It goes as far south as the Mediterranean in winter, and at that time is one of the familiar wild geese that worry farmers and bother shooters at home.