Bird of the Week – Snow Goose


The Snow Goose is one of the most abundant waterfowl species in North America, maybe in the world. Oddly, it doesn’t occur in great abundance in Alaska.

Snow Geese, Creamer's Field, Fairbanks

Snow Geese, Creamer’s Field, Fairbanks

(Bonus points for identifying the four other species in this photo.) But they do range west as far as Interior Alaska during spring migration, although not every year.  There are breeding birds in the northeastern corner of Alaska’s Arctic coast, but generally Snow Geese breed in far northern Canada.

Snow Geese have two color morphs – thought to be different species until 1983. The white morph, shown here, is overwhelmingly the more common color phase seen in Alaska. The “blue” morph is more common in the continental flyway.

Snow Geese, Creamer's Field, Fairbanks

Snow Geese, Creamer’s Field, Fairbanks

The white wings with black primaries are very distinctive in flight. Speaking of which, they are nearly as noisy in flight as Canada Geese, but the call is more like baying hounds.

Snow Geese, Delta Agricultural Fields, Delta Junction

Snow Geese, Delta Agricultural Fields, Delta Junction

Snow Geese have a habit in common with humans: they tend to destroy the habitat they depend upon for survival. Snow Geese pull up grasses, sedges and other plans, leaving bare mudflats. It’s known as “maladaptive behavior.” Habitat degradation can be so severe that all species not just the Snow Geese, abandon a territory.

WC has seen flocks of tens of thousands of Snow Geese at the Salton Sea in southern California, with the gummy water of the Salton Sea completely covered by noisy, squawking Snow Geese. The great increases in populations are attributed to man’s agricultural development of their winter range, giving the species much greater winter food sources.

For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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