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Snow Goose

Chen caerulescens ORDER: ANSERIFORMES FAMILY: ANATIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Watching huge flocks of Snow Geese swirl down from the sky, amid a cacophony of honking, is a little like standing inside a snow globe. These loud, white-and-black geese can cover the ground in a snowy blanket as they eat their way across fallow cornfields or wetlands. Among them, you might see a dark form with a white head—a color variant called the “Blue Goose.” Snow Geese have skyrocketed in numbers and are now among the most abundant waterfowl on the continent.

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Calls

Snow Geese are possibly the noisiest of all waterfowl. Their main call, made by both males and females, is a nasal, one-syllable honk given at any hour of the day or night, at any time of year, in the air or on the ground. Distant calling flocks are reminiscent of a pack of baying hounds. Birds less than a year old have a clearer and higher-pitched whistle. Family groups use a series of guttural notes to communicate with each other while feeding. Parents make a fast, quiet series of notes as a brood call to round up goslings. During nesting, they use a penetrating alarm call that varies in intensity. The flight call is a continuous chorus of shrill cries, hoarse honks, and high-pitched quacks, audible both day and night.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

Look for Snow Geese in open fields and bodies of water in their wintering grounds across the United States, or passing high overhead during migration. During spring and fall migration, the geese will stop over in open habitats along the four major North American flyways. If the geese are around, they’ll be hard to miss: a cacophony of honks accompanying a huge flock either on the ground or in the air.

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Unsafe Haven: Teshekpuk Lake, Alaska. Story and photos in Living Bird magazine.