Photo: Rick & Nora Bowers/Vireo

Snow Goose

Chen caerulescens

Conservation status Population of Greater Snows was reduced to only 2,000-3,000 around year 1900, has made satisfactory recovery. Total number of Lesser Snows apparently has increased greatly in recent decades. Population may vary because of Arctic summer weather: in series of exceptionally cold summers, Snow Geese may raise very few young.
Family Ducks and Geese
Habitat Tundra (summer), marshes, grain fields, ponds, bays. In summer on Arctic tundra usually within 5 miles of coast, near lakes or rivers. During migration and winter in coastal marshes, estuaries, freshwater marshes, agricultural country. Greater Snow Goose often nests in higher and drier tundra, and in migration and winter is more often in saltwater habitats than Lesser Snow.
Very localized, but abundant where they occur, Snow Geese typically are seen in large numbers or not at all. Included under this heading is the "Blue Goose," long considered a separate species, now known to be only a color morph of the smaller race of Snow (Lesser Snow Goose). The two color forms mate with each other, and may produce young of either or both colors. A larger race, Greater Snow Goose, nests in far eastern regions of Canada and winters on the Atlantic Coast.
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Feeding Behavior

forages mostly by walking in shallow water or on land. Except when nesting, usually feeds in flocks, sometimes mixed with other kinds of geese.


Eggs

3-5, sometimes 1-7, rarely 8. Whitish, becoming nest-stained. Incubation is by female only, 22-23 days, up to 25. Young: Usually leave nest within a few hours after hatching; they find their own food, and are tended by both parents. Family group may travel miles on foot away from nest site. Young fledge at 42-50 days.


Young

Usually leave nest within a few hours after hatching; they find their own food, and are tended by both parents. Family group may travel miles on foot away from nest site. Young fledge at 42-50 days.

Diet

almost entirely plant material. Feeds on seeds, leaves, and roots of many species of wild grasses, also of sedges, bulrushes, horsetail, others. Very young goslings may feed on insect larvae. In fall, may eat many berries. Winter flocks often feed on waste grain in agricultural fields.


Nesting

May mate for life. Usually first breeds at age of 3 years. In one courtship display, male and female face each other and stretch necks upward rapidly and repeatedly in unison. Often nests in colonies. Nest site (selected by female) usually on slight ridge or hummock, with good visibility. Same site may be used more than one season. Nest (built by female, mostly after first egg is laid) is shallow depression filled with bulky bowl of plant material, lined with down.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Migration

Migrates long distances, in flocks, often flying very high. In many regions the Snows migrate along rather narrow corridors, with traditional stopover points en route.

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Migration

Migrates long distances, in flocks, often flying very high. In many regions the Snows migrate along rather narrow corridors, with traditional stopover points en route.

Songs and Calls
A high-pitched, barking bow-wow! or howk-howk!