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Information about Lesser Snow Geese, Greater Snow Geese, & Ross's Geese
lesser snow geese wing span is about 4.5 feet long and the greater wing spans may be more than 5 feet long.
lesser snow geese males weigh between 5 and 6.5 pounds and lesser snow geese females weight between 3.5 and 5 pounds and the greater snow geese males weigh between 6-8 pounds and the females between 5-7 pounds. before 1920's snow geese were hunted to almost extinction and hunting was prohibited but hunting was re-established in the mid 1970's on both lesser and greater snow goose populations.
Snow geese mate with only 1 or 2 mates in a lifetime. Snow geese start breeding roughly two to four years old and breed in colonies on north of the timberline in Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and the northeastern tip of Siberia.
snow geese form 3 separate populations Eastern, Central, & Western. Populations in the eastern and western arctic have tripled since the 1970's.
Snow geese have 2 distinctive colors the all white color morph aka the snow goose and the dark brown and gray color morph aka the blue goose. If a pure dark goose mates with a white goose, the offspring will all be dark and possibly with white bellies aka the hybrids. The blue coloring is caused by a single gene. Snow Geese heads’ are often stained red as a result of gathering food in mud containing iron oxides. 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.
Snow Goose populations in North America have increased to the point where the tundra breeding grounds in the Arctic and the salt marsh wintering grounds have become severely degraded, and this affects other species using the same habitat.
Snow geese can live very long lives, which is why they can be difficult for hunters to fool with decoys. The oldest snow goose on record, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, was 27.5 years old. It was shot in Texas.
Goose neck collars are used to study goose populations or track geese as part of a research project. The lesser snow goose and greater snow goose may cover several thousands of miles in its spring and fall migrations, flying at speeds of more than 40 miles per hour and elevations of as much as 7500 to 8000 feet. Both lesser and greater snow geese have been known to travel more than 600-700 miles non-stop if needed.
The fall snow goose migrations usually start in September and they leave the northern breeding areas to get away from the freezing temperatures and colder weather. The reverse snow goose migration in the spring usually starts around the end of January as they start their northern push to get back to the breeding grounds. their northern spring migration can go into late may. They typically will follow the warmer weather north as the winter snow melts and the freezing waters dissipate.
The blue morph, which is quite common in Lesser Snow Geese, is more rare in Greater Snow Geese population with fewer than 4 percent of Greater Snow Geese with the blue phase.
Birds that normally breed can skip breeding in a given year if they cannot accumulate sufficient fat and protein reserves or if climate and weather conditions are not good.
the lesser snow goose and the Ross’s Goose may interbreed, producing a hybrid that is intermediate in size. The Ross's Goose is smaller than a lesser snow goose and breeds in the central Arctic and winters primarily in central California but, there are more and more Ross's geese in the Central and Mississippi flyways today.
It is very rare to see a blue morph Ross's goose. The blue morph Ross's Geese are thought to be the result of hybridization with Snow Geese.
The oldest known Ross's Goose was a female, and was at least 22 years old when she was shot in California in 1993. She had been banded in 1972 in Saskatchewan so she may have been even older than 22 years old.
Informational Snow Goose Links
- Snow Goose - All About Birds | Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- Snow Goose - Species Information | Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- Snow Goose - Guide to North American Birds | Audubon
- Lesser Snow Goose - Hinterland Who's Who | Canadian Wildlife Federation
- Greater Snow Goose - Hinterland Who's Who | Canadian Wildlife Federation
- Ross's Goose - All About Birds | Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- Ross's Goose - Species Information | Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- Ross's Goose - Guide to North American Birds | Audubon