Snow goose identification worth a gander

Name that snow goose.

There are three species of light goose that often are referred to as “snow goose:” the Ross’s goose, the lesser snow goose and the greater snow goose.

And the snow goose itself has two different color morphs or phases.

Prior to 1971, the snow goose was “chen hyperborea,” reflective of its high-arctic nesting and breeding grounds. Breeding occurs in the Canadian arctic and subarctic from the lower Hudson Bay to the Elizabeth Islands.

Interior and western populations are lesser snow geese (chen caerulescens) while eastern populations are greater snow geese (chen atlantica).

Each are distinguished from Ross’s geese by being larger (about 6–7 pounds) and the black “grin patch” on the bottom edge of their bills.

The Ross’s goose also is white with black wing tips but has a slightly different bill, shorter neck and normally weighs 3 1/2 pounds.

The snow goose has two color morphs commonly described as “snows” and “blues.” White-morph birds are white except for black wing tips, but blue-morph geese have bluish-gray plumage with white neck, head and tail tip. Both phases have rose-red feet and legs and pink bills with the distinctive “grin patch.”

Until 1983, the two color morphs were considered separate species. Since they interbreed and are found together throughout their ranges, they are now considered two color phases of the same species.


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