The Lesser Snow Goose is probably the most abundant goose in Canada. These geese have two color phases, which are variations within the same race: a dark (blue) plumage and a white (snow) plumage. Both the male and the female are similar in appearance in both phases, but the female is smaller in size. Their bills are pinkish with black grinning patches, while their feet and legs are reddish-pink. In the dark phase their heads and upper necks are white, and their bodies are bluish-gray. In the white phase they are completely white apart from their black wing tips. Their faces are often a rusty orange color, from iron stains on their feathers caused by the minerals where the bird feeds. The Lesser Snow Goose has evolved to acquire a strong serrated bill and tongue to cut and tear the roots of bulrushes and sedges. These birds are vocal and often can be heard from more than a mile away. The Lesser Snow Goose has a wingspan of about 90cm/35.4in and its average weight is between .2-2.7 kg/4.8-5.9lb. Lesser Snow Geese hybridize with Ross' Geese, whom they resemble in appearance.
Lesser Snow Geese nest colonially in the Arctic tundra within five miles of the coast. Greater Snow Geese tend to nest in higher, drier areas than Lesser Snow Geese. During migration and in winter, they inhabit coastal and freshwater marshes, estuaries, and agricultural lands, with Greater Snow Geese more likely to be in saltwater habitats than Lessers. The Lesser Goose breeds north of the timberline in Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and the northeastern tip of Siberia, and winters in warm parts of North America from southwestern British Columbia through parts of the United States to Mexico. It is a rare vagrant to Europe, but a frequent escape from collections and an occasional feral breeder. Snow Geese are visitors to the British Isles where they are seen regularly among flocks of Barnacle, Brent and Greenland White-fronted geese. There is also a feral population in Scotland from which many vagrant birds in Britain seem to derive. In Central America, vagrants are frequently encountered during winter.
During breeding, Lesser Snow Geese feed on grasses and sedges. During migration, corn, peas, and cereal grains make up its diet. In their wintering areas along the Gulf of Mexico, the birds feed on tubers, roots, and grasses in coastal marshes; however, some of this wintering population feed farther inland on cultivated corn, rice, and grain. In spring, Lesser Snow Geese feed on agricultural waste corn and grain. From the time they hatch, goslings feed almost entirely on growing shoot tips of grasses and sedges, which are high protein and is easily digested by their developing digestive systems. Lesser Snow Geese's strong serrated bills enable them to cut and tear the roots of bulrushes and sedges from the ground in coastal marshes.
Lesser Snow Goose meat is entirely dark and some people say it taste more like roast beef. The goose has lots of accumulated fat between the skin and meat but the meat itself is quite lean.
Lesser Snow Geese usually live in large flocks. They fly in large groups, forming lines or U-formations that change shape frequently. Unlike most other waterfowl, Lesser Snow Geese usually nest close to each other in large colonies with densities of over 5 000 pairs per square kilometer. Nesting begins as early as northern snow conditions allow and varies between colonies. It begins to lay its eggs from early May to mid-June. If the snow cover delays this process, the geese do not breed; instead, they resorb their eggs and waiting for the next year. The nest is mainly a scrape in the moss or gravel, built up with willow, grasses and feathers. The female lays 2-6 eggs and then incubates them for about 23 days. The male protect the female and nest from predators and from other geese. The females hardly leaves the nest and as a result she is very thin by the time hatching begins; losing up to 30 % of her body weight, but regains it when she starts to feed with the goslings. The young must grow very fast to be large enough to fly south before the Arctic winter returns. Snow geese have very strong family bond and the young and adults remain together through the winter and the spring and fall migrations, breaking up when the parents start a new nest. Their nest predators include Arctic Foxes and Skuas. The eggs and young chicks are vulnerable to these predators, but adults are generally safe. The Lesser Snow Goose calls are loud, resonant, nasal “whouk” or “houck”, which are high-pitched, often uttered in a chorus.
Check back soon for video.
You must select a state from the menu above to view regulations.