caerulescens [an ser sE roo' les sens]
Snow geese have an average weight of 1-2
pounds, an overall body length of about 27
inches, and a wingspan of about 17 inches. Males
and females are similar in appearance, but males
are usually larger.
Snow geese come in two basic "color
schemes" -- snow white and blue. Both
"kinds" of snow geese have black wing
tips, red feet and legs, a pink bill, and a black
"grin patch" (a patch of skin
surrounding the base of the bill), but basic
colorations of the two are different -- an adult
"snow snow goose" is snowy white, while
an adult "blue snow goose" is
blue/gray. Immature "snows" are dirty
white in color with black wing tips, while
immature "blues" are slate gray with
little or no white. It was once thought that the
two color variations were different species of
geese, but they are not. They interbreed with one
another, and are found together throughout their
range. The colors appear to be genetically
determined. Individual snow geese tend to choose
mates that resemble their parents, but
"mixed" breeding is not uncommon.
Distribution and Habitat
breed in the northeast Arctic regions of North
America, from northern Baffin Island, west to
Bathurst Island, north through Ellesmere Island,
and east to northwest Greenland (red on the map).
Their main wintering grounds are along gulf coast
of Louisiana and Texas, from the Mississippi
Delta to Corpus Christi (blue on the map). In
recent years, colonies have also been seen in
Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska,
and Iowa, as well as in eastern Mexico and
southern New Mexico.
Breeding grounds typically consist of low
grassy tundra with flat basins. Snow geese prefer
coastal lagoons, marshes, tidal flats, and
estuaries, but have been seen on prairies and
agricultural lands. They are seldom found more
than 25 or 30 miles from water.
Like most other species of geese, snow geese
are monogamous and usually form life-long pair
Mating takes place during the south-to-north
migration. Nesting occurs in June, with nesting
colonies numbering into the tens of thousands.
The nest is usually a shallow depression in the
ground lined with bits of dry vegetation and down
from the mother. The female lays one egg per day
until she reaches a full clutch of three to five.
Incubation takes about 25 days, during which
period the male guards the nest and the mother.
Both parents care for the young, which fledge in
45 to 49 days.
Snow geese frequently nest near snowy owl
nests, probably for partial protection from
Snow geese travel in large flocks madeof many
family units and fly during both day and night.
They tend to return to the same nesting areas
year after year.
Males are territorial toward other males, as
are females toward other females.
Snow geese eat roots, leaves, grasses, and
Genus & Species Anser caerulescens
Animal Diversity Web http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Anser_caerulescens/
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