Living Bird Magazine
Snow GooseAnser caerulescens
- ORDER: Anseriformes
- FAMILY: Anatidae
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.More ID Info
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.
- Ánsar Nival (Spanish)
- Oie des neiges (French)
- Cool Facts
- The dark color of the blue morph Snow Goose is controlled by a single gene, with dark being partially dominant over white. If a pure dark goose mates with a white goose, the offspring will all be dark (possibly with white bellies). If two white geese mate, they have only white offspring. If two dark geese mate, they will have mostly dark offspring, but might have a few white ones too.
- Snow Geese chicks are well developed when they hatch, with open eyes and down-covered bodies that already show whether the adult will have white or dark plumage. Within a few days they are able to maintain a constant body temperature on their own. They grow very quickly, with the males outpacing the females.
- The creamy white eggs of Snow Geese stain easily. People can sometimes tell what order the eggs were laid in, just by the color of the shells (the dirtiest shells belong to the oldest eggs).
- In wintering and migrating flocks that are feeding, lookouts keep an eye out for eagles and other predators. Upon sighting a threat they call out to the rest of the flock, which may take flight.
- Snow Geese make epic journeys by air, but they are impressive on foot, too. Within the first three weeks of hatching, goslings may walk up to 50 miles with their parents from the nest to a more suitable brood-rearing area. Molting Snow Geese can outrun many predators.
- Females forage up to 18 hours a day once they arrive at breeding grounds, but eat little once they begin incubating the eggs.
- Food passes through the Snow Goose’s digestive tract in only an hour or two, generating 6 to 15 droppings per hour. The defecation rate is highest when a goose is grubbing for rhizomes, because such food is very high in fiber and the goose inevitably swallows mud.
- The oldest Snow Goose on record, shot in Texas in 1999, was 27 and a half.
- Snow Goose hunting in the eastern United States was stopped in 1916 because of low population levels. Hunting was allowed again in 1975 after populations had recovered. Since then, their populations have continued to grow, to the point that some areas of tundra nesting habitat are starting to suffer.