Blue Goose Visits Back Bay
|Snow Goose Blue Morph Adult|
An adult Snow Goose blue morph has been visiting Back Bay for the last 2 to 3 weeks. The Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) is a common goose species of mid-North America. It normally breeds in our high Arctic islands and winters in south central US. A small population winters in California and Mexico. Snow Geese are uncommon here but usually a few pass through during spring migration. Having one here during the winter is rare and having it a blue morph is even rarer. The blue morph is a genetic variation of the Snow Goose which occurs in a small percentage of Snow Goose populations.
The Snow Goose population is divided into different geographical and genetic groups. The Lesser Snow Goose inhabits the central part of North America and the Greater Snow Goose uses the Atlantic Flyway and Atlantic Coastal Plain. Those migrating along the Atlantic Flyway and Coastal Plain are seen in the thousands along the St. Lawrence River on their way to the Arctic to breed. Many of this group come to northeastern New Brunswick near Campbellton to feed on their way north. In 1998 there were 1000 individuals at Atholville, for example.
In the mid-20th century the Snow Goose population fell into a steep decline. Since then their numbers have increased dramatically. Since 1973 their population has tripled and the central Arctic population has multiplied by a factor of 25! This huge increase has caused significant damage to Arctic tundra from the feeding flocks. This has placed a negative stress on other species. The large flocks are causing much damage to crops in the central part of the continent. As a result, governments have legislated increased hunting permits to try to reduce numbers. Now about 400,000 Snow Geese are hunted annually in the US and Canada.
Shown above is the Blue Goose (Snow Goose Blue Morph). It basically shows a blue body and a white head. Technically it has a brown body much of which is covered with blue wing feathers which are long and beautiful. The tail feathers are gray with a white border. Important identifying features are the pink bill and legs and the black 'smile line' on the bill. This helps distinguish it from the Ross's Goose. The white domestic goose has an orange bill and legs. The white head of the Snow Goose is often stained red or brown by the iron oxide in the soil as it grubs for roots and tubers.
|Snow Goose White Morph Adult|
The much more common white morph Snow Goose is shown above. Note the pink bill and legs and the black smile line. The white morph has black primary wing feathers which show here above the tail. These show well on birds in flight.
|Snow Goose with Canada Goose|
The Snow Goose is smaller than the Canada Goose as shown above. It is a Chen goose (its genus) which it shares with the Ross's Goose and the Emperor Goose. It migrates in huge numbers and usually flies very high in large arc formations or very loose 'V's. They rest at night usually on water. They can sleep while afloat or while standing on one leg or sitting.
Snow Geese feed on plants, eating most parts of the plant. They feed heavily on grasses, rushes, sedges, forbes, horsetails, shrubs and willows.
|Snow Goose White Morph Juvenile|
The juvenile white morph can sometimes be mistaken for the blue morph. We don't see these often so need to carefully observe to make an identification. This form varies but always shows a dingy gray colour. The juvenile blue morph is much darker, a dull brown on the head and neck and dark gray-brown overall. (Sorry, no photo).
Snow Geese mate for life and usually choose a mate of the same colour morph as their parents. They will choose another morph, however, if the preferred morph is not available. Offspring will then be of either morph. The goose in Back Bay is hanging out with a Canada Goose. Will they mate come spring? Not likely. They will fly north and find mates of their own species. In the meantime, it is good for them to keep company with one another.