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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Snow Goose -- Chen caerulescens

RANGE: Breeds from northern Alaska east along the Arctic Coast and islands of Canada to Baffin Island, south to Southhampton Island and along both coasts of Hudson Bay to the head of James Bay. Winters from the Puget Sound of British Columbia and Washington south to the interior valleys of California and Mexico; in southern New Mexico; from Kansas and Missouri south to the Gulf Coast; and along the Atlantic Coast from New York to Florida. During migration, found on large staging areas in the Dakotas, Minnesota, lowa, and Nebraska.

There are two races of the snow goose, the "lesser" and the "greater." The lesser snow goose has two color phases—a dark phase, or blue goose, and a white phase—while the greater is believed to only have a white phase, and generally breeds farther north than the lesser.

STATUS: Locally abundant.

HABITAT: Inhabits islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago or is found within 5 miles of salt water on flat tundra of marsh grasses and sedges, in limestone basins, on islands of river deltas, or on plains usually drained by large rivers that open early in the season. During winter, uses both freshwater and saltwater marshes and wet prairies.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Wetlands on arctic tundra.

NEST: Nests in a shallow depression on the ground in large, loose colonies, on dry sites, primarily in unspoiled, primitive areas. Nests, well concealed by tundra grasses and sedges, as close as 15 to 20 feet from each other on flat land.

FOOD: Feeds by browsing in cultivated fields on winter wheat, in pastures on sprouting grasses, or on waste grain in stubble fields, also by digging out bulbous roots and soft parts of sedges, rushes, marsh grasses, and aquatic plants.

REFERENCES: Bellrose in Farrand 1983a, Cooch 1964, Lemieux 1959, Terres 1980, Verner and Boss 1980.

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