The Snow goose, covered in beautiful white feathers, is a large bird. But they aren’t always white and also have the name of blue goose. They are blue when young and become white as they mature. A Snow goose has a round body with very well-defined feathers. They have a long neck and a very small head. Their bill is short and pointed and has a triangle design. Their legs are short and they have webbed feet. Under their wings they have dark brown colors that are only seen in flight.
The Snow goose inhabits many part of North America: everywhere in the USA and Canada, also Mexico, British Columbia and Greenland, those birds that live in cold regions, such as Siberia, migrating each year to a warmer climate. In winter many of them are found in Central America. Their breeding grounds are low grassy tundra which have flat basins, no more than 10 km from a lake, river, flood plain, or sea. They like coastal lagoons, marshes, estuaries, and tidal flats but are also found on prairies and agricultural lands.
Habits and lifestyle
These geese migrate from northeast Canada all the way to and from the Gulf of Mexico. They are diurnal and tend to eat and be active during the day. They travel in large flocks of many family units. They fly both night and day. The birds tend to go back to the same nesting year after year. Often they live in very large noisy flocks. They use vocalizations to communicate about territory issues, for establishing hierarchy, and with offspring and mates. Family groups feed together at the wintering grounds, digging up tubers and roots from marshes and muddy fields.
Diet and nutrition
Snow geese are herbivorous, eating roots, leaves, sedges and grasses. In the breeding grounds in the north the most common source of food is the American bulrush. They can also be found foraging in agricultural fields for leftover corn, oats and winter wheat. They must also take in some sort of grit to help their digestion, sand or shell fragments serving this purpose.
Snow geese form monogamous pairs. Males are territorial in relation to other males, and females toward other females. May to June is the nesting period. The males approach females and perform various dances and make sounds. If she responds, the couple then spend several days together. They engage in dancing rituals, possibly also finding and sharing food. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs, which are incubated for a period of 23 to 25 days. The male guards the mother and the nest throughout. The young fledge after 45 to 49 days and will stay with their parents for two years. Females are sexually mature between 2 to 4 years old.
The main threat to this bird is from hunting, despite restrictions to protect them from over hunting. The Snow goose may itself degrade its own habitat during the early part of the breeding season by grubbing vigorously when seeking food, not only compromising its own breeding success but that of nesting shorebirds. Snow geese will suffer from lead poisoning if they take in fallen lead shot while they are foraging.
According to the IUCN Red List the total Snow goose population size is around 5,300,000-6,200,000 individuals. The European population is estimated at 1,000-2,000 pairs, which is around 2,000-4,000 mature individuals. Overall, currently Snow geese are clasified as Least Concern (LC) and their numbers today are increasing.
Snow geese are overabundant and have been stripping vegetation from their habitat.