Snow Goose

Common Name:
Snow Goose
Scientific Name:
Anser caerulescens
Type:
Birds
Diet:
Herbivore
Group Name:
Flock
Size:
27 to 33 inches; wingspan: 4.5 feet
Weight:
3.5 to 7.3 pounds
IUCN Red List Status:
Least concern
Current Population Trend:
Increasing

Snow geese are known for their white plumage, but many of them are actually darker, gray-brown birds known as blue geese. These birds were once though to be two separate species, but they have recently been found to be merely two different color morphs of the same bird. A single gene controls the color difference.

Migration and Diet

Snow geese are harbingers of the changing seasons. They fly south for the winter in huge, honking flocks that may appear as a "V" formation or simply as a large "snowstorm" of white birds. They spend the colder seasons in southern coastal marshes, bays, wet grasslands, and fields. Their diet is entirely vegetarian, consisting of grasses and grains, grazed from damp soils or even shallow water.

Reproduction

At winter's end, snow geese fly north to their breeding grounds on the Arctic tundra. Pairs mate for life, and produce two to six eggs each year in a shallow ground nest. Chicks can swim and eat on their own within 24 hours, but families remain together through the young's first winter. Families can be identified as groups during both the southern and northern migrations.

Population Decline and Rebound

In 1916, snow geese had become so rare in the eastern United States that hunting of the species was banned. Since that time, the birds have made a remarkable comeback. Today, though hunting has been reinstated, populations are thriving. In fact, the birds have become so numerous in places that they threaten to destroy their own habitat.

This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
Photograph by Bob Jakubowicz, National Geographic Your Shot

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet