Bird of the Month: Snow Goose
By Hugh Jennings
Scientific Name: Chen caerulescens
Length 28-29 in
AOU Band code SNGO
The Snow Goose (SNGO) is about 28-29" in length. It is a white goose with a pink bill. It is best distinguished from the much smaller Ross’ Goose (23-24”), by its longer neck and bill and flatter head. The two are often seen on wintering grounds together. The black wing tips are prominent in flight. Snow Geese are very localized, but abundant where they occur. They are usually seen in large flocks. Two large local populations in winter are in the Skagit Flats and at the Reifel Sanctuary in Ladner, BC. There will be field trips to both areas in November.
Snow Goose includes the “Blue Goose”, once considered a separate species. It is now considered only a color morph. The two color forms mate with each other and may produce young of either or both colors. It nests during the summer on the Arctic tundra usually within 5 miles of the coast. During migration and in the winter it inhabits coastal marshes, estuaries, freshwater marshes and agricultural country. The SNGO’s diet is almost all plant material, including seeds, leaves, roots of many wild grasses, sedges, bulrushes, and others. Very young goslings may feed on insect larvae and in fall may eat many berries. Winter flocks often feed on waste grains in agricultural fields.
They may mate for life and usually first breed at 3 years. They often nest in colonies. The nest site, usually selected by the female, is on a slight ridge or hummock with good visibility. The nest is a shallow depression filled with bulky bowl of plant material and lined with down. The nest is usually built by the female after the first egg has been laid. An average of 3-5 eggs are laid, with extremes of 1 to 8. Incubation, by the female only, is for 22-23 days. Young leave the nest within a few hours after hatching. They find their own food and are tended by both parents. The young fledge at 42-50 days.