Bird of the Week

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Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the snow goose.
Snow geese are birds that may stop here on their long migratory flights to or from their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundras of Canada and Alaska. On their winter grounds in the U.S., they are found in one of three distinct population groups: the western, mid-continent or eastern. Within a group, they congregate in enormous flocks feeding in wetlands or agricultural fields. Look-out birds in the flock are on the alert for predators and their warning calls may cause thousands of birds to take to the air in a burst of white.
These geese eat all parts of a plant, everything from seeds to roots, often pulling the whole plant out of the ground. Huge winter flocks can cause significant damage to wetland and farm vegetation by leaving little behind. Large nesting colonies have also stripped much of the plant life from their Arctic summer homes, causing a problem for themselves and migratory shorebirds that breed there.
Snow geese are strong fliers, walkers and swimmers. Within the first three weeks of life, goslings may walk up to 50 miles with their parents in search of better feeding habitat.
Snow geese come in two different color forms. The more common white morph is all white with black wingtips and pink legs. Its thick pink bill shows a dark line known as a grin patch. The dark morph, or blue goose, is a sooty gray with white on its head.
Snow geese are considered over-abundant and population management to preserve their habitat, both in Canada and the U.S., has proven to be challenging.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.