Snow Goose

Anser caerulescens
Range Map

Snow Geese breed in the high Arctic and spend winters in several locations in the continental USA and Mexico. We find these birds, in their winter homes, often in huge numbers near grain fields. California’s Central Valley, the Salton Sea, and New Mexico’s Bosque del Apache are great locations to meet large winter gatherings of these birds.

Snow Geese and their close relatives, Ross’s Geese, are relentless grazers, stripping the land in many places in the Arctic where they graze. This concerns some researches regarding the negative impact on the environment. Considering these birds have expanded their nesting range since the 1950s, these concerns may have merit.

Today’s science recognises two subspecies of Snow Geese:

  • A. c. caerulescens or Lesser Snow Goose breeds on Wrangle Island, northern Alaska, and northern Canada east to Baffin Island. They spend winters in western and south-central USA and northern Mexico.
  • A. c. atlantica or Greater Snow Goose breeds on northern Baffin Bay and northwest Greenland. They spend winters in central and eastern USA.

In my experience, no other waterfowl flocks come close to the density and sheer number of individuals, as do these white geese. The roaring commotions of tens-of-thousands of geese rising in unison from a shallow lake or grain field have made an indelible impression on me. When I’ve witnessed such spectacles, the visual of thousands of geese flying overhead and the flapping of their wings is hard to describe. Impossible to ignore, at the same time, are thunderous sounds of their broad wings pounding the air, and the high-pitched honks that add spice to the brew. After a few impressive sorties, with this enormous biomass of geese flying to and fro, they settle back to earth, often to the same location from where they launched. Then, as if nothing had happened, they get back the business of foraging, or digesting the food gathered earlier in the day.

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