Snow Goose

Snow Goose

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Snow Goose (Blue Morph)

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Snow Geese and Bald Eagle over Pool 1

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Snow Goose

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Snow Goose

photo of snow geese
Chen caerulescens
Anatidae (ducks, geese, swans) in the order Anseriformes

This medium-sized goose has two color morphs, formerly considered separate species: white and blue. All have pink bills with black “lipstick,” and pink legs and feet. The white morph is mostly white, with black wingtips. The blue morph is mostly grayish brown overall, with a white head and neck, and white on the underside of the wing. Intermediate forms occur, and immatures look different from adults. The calls are loud and nasal.

Similar species: Ross’s goose has a shorter neck and bill and is the size of a mallard. It lacks the “lipstick” or “grinning” marks on the bill and instead has a blue-green warty patch saddling the upper bill near the base. Note that hybrids between snow goose and Ross’s goose are not rare.

Length: 28 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).
Habitat and conservation: 
Common in marshes, rivers, lakes, and crop fields. Populations of this species and Ross’s goose have increased to a historically high level. As a result they are overgrazing their arctic nesting range and degrading large areas of the arctic tundra where other species nest. Wildlife agencies have been trying to control the population size through various methods.
Snow geese in winter are adapted for digging up and feeding on the roots of various marsh plants. In the past century or so, they have diversified into eating leftover grain in crop fields and other agricultural grain waste, as well as fields of rice, wheat, corn, and other grains, plus newly seeded winter wheat crops.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Common migrant; uncommon winter resident.
Life cycle: 
Snow geese overwinter in the southern part of their range, including Missouri, and return north to the arctic tundra to nest. Pairs form during each bird’s second spring migration and the couples stay together for life. They nest on the ground, and once hatched, the young are able to migrate back south when they are 6 to 8 weeks old.
Human connections: 
Snow geese are a popular quarry of waterfowl hunters. Their large, calling chevrons flying high overhead during migration are a timeless symbol of the changing seasons.
Ecosystem connections: 
Snow geese are an important prey item for bald and golden eagles during the winter months.
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