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Snow Goose Fact File

Anser caerulescens

Weight

1.9-5.2kg

(4.2-11.5lbs)

Length

69-83cm

(27-32.5in)

Lifespan

Wild 10 years

Captive 10 years

Diet

Omnivorous

Seeds, Grasses, Insects

The snow goose is a species of waterfowl found in North America. They are named for their beautiful white feathers though two morphs exist with the other having blue-grey feathers on their back.

Large flocks of these birds may include several thousand members.

Appearance

The snow goose is as its name suggests colored snow white across its entire body except for the wing tips which are black. These tips are not often visible on the ground but can be seen in flight.

Another morph exists know as the "blue goose." They are colored dark brown on their body with a white head and white under the tail.

Their beak is colored pink with a dark line running through it. The bill is short and has a sharp cutting edge along the top to help with eating.

Snow geese have a small, black eye. Their feet and legs are colored red.

Their body measures between 69 and 83cm (27-32.5in) long with a wingspan up to 138cm (54.3in) across. An average weigh for the species is 1.9-5.2kg (4.2-11.5lbs).

Diet


Snow geese are omnivores. They feed on grasses, leaves, seeds, plants and omnivores.

Foraging takes place in shallow water or on land.

Snow Goose

Range

Snow geese are found in cold climate areas across North America, Europe and Asia. Breeding occurs in Greenland, the United States and Russia.

They can also be found in Anguilla; Bahamas; Barbados; Belgium; Belize; Bermuda; Bulgaria; Canada; China; Cuba; Czechia; Denmark; Estonia; Faroe Islands; Finland; France; Germany; Honduras; Iceland; India; Ireland; Italy; Japan; Kazakhstan; Democratic People's Republic of Korea; Latvia; Lithuania; Marshall Islands; Mexico; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Portugal; Puerto Rico; Romania; Spain; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; United Kingdom and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Habitat

Snow geese can be found on the Arctic tundra and around lakes, ponds and marshes.

They have adapted well to life around humans and will make use of agricultural fields to find their food.

Their bill is strong and can be used to dig up roots in mud.

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Reproduction

The breeding season for the snow goose begins in June. Pairs are considered monogamous though extra-pair copulations regularly occur.

Mate selection tends to be influenced by the color phase of their parents. Those born to white color phase members tend to favor a white color phase partner though breeding between the two phases is possible.

Snow geese place their nest on a high spot. This helps them to spot predators which may approach them. They seem to use the same nest site each year.

Nests are built by females in a shallow depression. The nest is lined with grass, moss or down.

In to this nest they can deposit up to 10 eggs. Eggs are laid one day apart. These are incubated for 23 to 26 days. Incubation is primarily performed by the mother while the male defends the nest. One clutch is raised each year.

Within 24 hours of birth the chicks are up and feeding with their parents. They will primarily feed on insects which provide protein. At two weeks old they begin feeding on vegetation.

Goslings differ between color phases. White phase individuals are colored yellow as chicks while blue phase individuals are black. As they grow they take on the adult coloration. Full adult coloration is achieved around April or May of the next year.

A relationship appears to occur between snowy owls and snow geese where they will nest near snowy owls which keep away predators.

Sexual maturity is reached between 2 and 4 years old.

Behavior

The snow goose is most often seen in a flock. These may include dozens of other snow geese. Flocks have been recorded to reach several thousand members.

Flocks may travel with other geese species such as the Canada goose.

Snow geese produce a range of vocalizations including a loud honk made when in flight.

At the end of each winter the snow goose will migrate from the breeding grounds up North.

While sleeping they tend to stand on one leg.

snow goose

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the snow goose include the Arctic fox and birds of prey such as the jaeger.

These birds are hunted by humans but their numbers are considered to be increasing. Global warming has also increased the temperature at nesting time which allows for greater breeding success.

During the 1910s they were almost hunted to extinction in parts of their range. They have since rebounded to the point of overabundance in some areas.

Current IUCN Red List Status – Least Concern

Quick facts

The blue phase of the snow goose was once thought to be a separate species but is now recognized as a color morph of the same species.

Snow Goose

Photo Credits

All Images

Cephas, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Christiansen, P., 2019. Birds. London: Amber Books Ltd.

Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley

Allaboutbirds.org. 2021. Snow Goose Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. [online] Available at: <https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Snow_Goose/id#> [Accessed 5 May 2021].

BirdLife International. 2018. Anser caerulescens. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22679896A131908897. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22679896A131908897.en. Downloaded on 05 May 2021.

Torontozoo.com. 2021. Toronto Zoo | Animals. [online] Available at: <https://www.torontozoo.com/animals/Lesser%20snow%20goose> [Accessed 5 May 2021].

Animals. 2021. Snow Goose | National Geographic. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/facts/snow-goose> [Accessed 5 May 2021].

Logue, J. 2002. "Anser caerulescens" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed May 05, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Anser_caerulescens/

Audubon. 2021. Snow Goose. [online] Available at: <https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/snow-goose> [Accessed 5 May 2021].

Seneca Park Zoo. 2021. Snow Goose | Seneca Park Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://senecaparkzoo.org/animal-pages/snow-goose/> [Accessed 5 May 2021].

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