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A photo of a Snow Goose (Anser caerulescens)
Snow Goose

Snow Goose

Anser caerulescens

The snow goose (Anser caerulescens), a native species to North America, is a bird of striking plumage with two distinct color morphs: the classic white and the less common dark or "blue" goose. The white morph is predominantly white with contrasting black wing tips, while the blue morph exhibits a bluish-gray body with a white head, neck, and tail tip. Juveniles of the blue phase are generally drabber, lacking the white head and belly. Both morphs share rose-red legs and feet, and pink bills edged with black, creating a distinctive "grin patch."

Identification Tips

Adult snow geese are identifiable by their black wingtips and pink bills. The white morph is entirely white save for the wingtips, while the blue morph has a mostly bluish-gray body. Juveniles are duller in color, and their heads may be stained rusty-brown from foraging in mineral-rich soils. Their vocalizations are loud and can carry over great distances.

Habitat

Snow geese breed in the Arctic tundra, beyond the timberline, and during the non-breeding season, they can be found in a variety of habitats including coastal marshes, estuaries, freshwater marshes, and agricultural fields.

Distribution

These geese breed in remote regions of Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. Come winter, they migrate to warmer parts of North America, from southwestern British Columbia through parts of the United States to Mexico.

Behaviour

Snow geese are highly social and often nest in colonies. They form long-term pair bonds typically in their second year, though breeding usually commences in the third year. They are known for their spectacular migratory flights in large, high-flying flocks along narrow corridors spanning thousands of miles.

Song & Calls

The snow goose is a vocal species, with calls that can be heard from over a mile away. Their calls are a series of high-pitched honking sounds that vary in intensity and pitch.

Breeding

Breeding begins in late May or early June, with females showing strong philopatry, returning to their birthplace to nest. They lay three to five eggs in a shallow depression lined with plant material and down. Both parents protect the young, which are able to feed themselves but remain with the family for up to three years.

Similar Species

The snow goose can be confused with Ross's goose, which is smaller and has a shorter neck and lacks the "grin patch" on the bill. Hybrids between snow geese and Ross's geese do occur where their ranges overlap.

Diet and Feeding

Snow geese are herbivores, feeding on a variety of plant material including roots, shoots, stems, leaves, and seeds. In winter, they often forage on leftover grain in agricultural fields.

Conservation status

The snow goose has experienced a population boom, leading to habitat degradation in both their Arctic breeding grounds and wintering areas. Conservation efforts are underway to manage and reduce their numbers to sustainable levels.

Snow Goose Sounds


Recorded by: © 
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