SNOW GOOSE

SNOW GOOSE(Anser caerulescens) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Snow Goose has two color morphs, the white and a dark blue one. The white morph has black wing primaries, a pink bill with black commissures, and pink legs. The dark blue morph has various amounts of that color, although the head is white. The white juveniles have some grey, while the blue juveniles are dark grey. Sexes are similar. The length of this goose is about 80 cm (30 inches).
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Anser-caerulescens –  Snow geese honk in flight and can be heard from a long distance. They also honk seemingly all the time, both males and females, even at night.
NAME: The English name ‘Goose’ would have different origins, such as Dutch and German ‘Gans’, Old Norse ‘Gas’, even Spanish ‘Ganso’. Then this would relate the name to Latin ‘anser’ for ‘goose’. The name ‘Snow’ refers to the white color of the main morph, although there is also a blue morph – hence the Latin species name ‘caerulescens’, which means ‘dark blue’.
HABITAT: Tundra near the coast in the summer. In the winter, along the coasts, in agricultural fields and marshes.
DIET: Plant material including leaves, seeds and grain, roots, tubers, berries, flowers.
NESTING: Snow geese breed in colonies on high ground. The nest is a shallow depression lined with vegetation. About five creamy eggs are laid, which are incubated by the female. Parents protect the goslings, but they can feed themselves.
DISTRIBUTION: This species’ breeding range is located in the high Arctic. It spends the winter inland in the southern USA, and along the coasts of that country and Mexico in the Gulf of the same name. Some individuals have been able to reach Hawaii. (See note below on bird vagrancy.)
CONSERVATION:  (Usually this section is for birds threatened due to a population decrease, but here it’s the opposite). The population of the snow goose was very low in the early 20th century, due to unregulated hunting. Since then it has rebounded to a point where breeders in the Arctic have a negative impact on the habitat for other species, and this in spite of legal hunting. A contributing factor to the three-fold population increase since the 1970s is expansion of agricultural land, where they graze in the winter for corn and grain leftovers.
NOTES: As opposed to the more ‘disciplined’ V formation of the Canada goose when flying, snow geese fly in loose flocks that can be huge – ten of thousands strong. Snow geese are a droppings ‘factory’ – due to their diet where they eat rhizomes during migration and inevitably swallow mud at the same time, they may leave up to a dozen droppings per hour! The Snow Goose is a white goose that is smaller than the Canada Goose.
Vagrancy: In biology this means an animal going way outside its normal range. For birds, this can happen when there are storms and they get blown off course. On other times, the bird simply wanders in a different direction than usual. Here’s an article about vagrancy in birds.
Interspecies breeding: Snow geese may breed with other goose species such as the Canada Goose or the Cackling Goose, and the resulting hybrids can be fertile.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Ross’s Goose, Tundra Swan
REFERENCES: https://www.borealbirds.org/bird/snow-goose
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_goose
https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/snow-goose
http://www.ducks.org/hunting/waterfowl-id/snow-goose
http://www.birdweb.org/birdweb/bird/snow_goose
http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wild-species/birds/waterfowl/snow-goose.aspx
https://identify.whatbird.com/obj/294/overview/Snow_Goose.aspx
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Snow_Goose/id

Snow geese in flight - Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area, QC - May 1, 2010 - Cephas
Snow geese in flight – Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area, QC – May 1, 2010 – Cephas
Snow goose - Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area, QC - June 17, 2008 - Cephas
Snow goose – Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area, QC – June 17, 2008 – Cephas
Snow Geese with blue morphs in foreground - Alexandria, ON - Apr. 2, 2010 - D. Gordon E. Robertson
Snow Geese with blue morphs in foreground – Alexandria, ON – Apr. 2, 2010 – D. Gordon E. Robertson

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