Snow Goose

Snow Goose

Key facts

Scientific name: Anser caerulescens
Status: Resident introduced population, some wild vagrants

Breeding birds: 60 – 100 pairs

Conservation status: Green
Length: 65 – 80 cm
Wingspan: 132 – 165 cm
Weight: 1.8 – 4.3 kg

Description

There are two morphs of snow geese; one white and the other dark, the latter often known as a blue goose.

The white morph has white plumage all over except for black flight feathers. The dark morph has a pale grey lower neck, breast, and belly, and blue-grey upperparts and flanks. The wings are grey with white primaries and the vent, rump, and tail coverts are white, as are the head and the neck. The head can sometimes be stained rust-coloured from minerals in the soil where they feed.

The bill on both morphs is pinky-brown, the eyes are dark brown, and the legs and feet are pink.

Juvenile white morphs have a brown back, brown secondaries, and grey mottling on the head and neck. The bill and legs are brown. Juvenile dark morphs are similar but have no white on the head.

Breeding

Snow geese start breeding in June and nest in colonies. The female selects the nest site and builds it. It is a shallow depression situated on the ground and lined with moss, grass, and down.

Snow geese lay 4-5 cream-coloured eggs which are incubated for 22-25 days by the female alone while the male stays nearby. Chicks hatch at the same time and are covered in olive or grey down. They are fed by both parents and remain in the family group until the following breeding season. They reach sexual maturity at two years but don’t breed until they are three or four.

Feeding

Snow geese start breeding in June and nest in colonies. The female selects the nest site and builds it. It is a shallow depression situated on the ground and lined with moss, grass, and down.

Snow geese lay 4-5 cream-coloured eggs which are incubated for 22-25 days by the female alone while the male stays nearby. Chicks hatch at the same time and are covered in olive or grey down. They are fed by both parents and remain in the family group until the following breeding season. They reach sexual maturity at two years but don’t breed until they are three or four.

Snow Geese

Where to see them

Snow geese arrive in the UK in October and leave again in April. Look out for them among flocks of white-fronted geese in flooded fields and marshes in Scotland and Ireland.

Listen

Sunny/xeno-canto

Did you know?

The white and dark morphs of snow geese were once thought to be two separate species but they can interbreed and the offspring may be of either morph. A single dominant gene is responsible for the dark morph.

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