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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

Ross' Goose -- Chen rossii

RANGE: Breeds primarily in the Queen Maud Gulf area of northern Mackenzie and northwestern Keewatin, but also on southern Southhampton Island and along the west coast of Hudson Bay south to Cape Churchill. Winters almost exclusively in the Central Valley of California and the Salton Sea; also in small numbers along the Rio Grande, New Mexico, and Gulf Coast of Texas.

STATUS: Rare a few decades ago, now quite abundant in recent years.

HABITAT: Inhabits island-studded lakes and deltas of low tundra country. Prefers islands that rise 10 to 20 feet above water level, are covered with rocks and shrubs interspersed with areas of open, level ground, and are surrounded by shallow water (under 5 to 6 feet deep) extensive enough to discourage predators from swimming across. During winter, found on freshwater and brackish marshes and on wet prairies, often in association with the snow goose.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Islands in Arctic tundra lakes.

NEST: Nests on the ground in loose colonies, preferably on islands in mixed habitats of dwarf birch and rocks, or occasionally along river or lake shores if islands are unavailable.

FOOD: Eats grain and new green growth of grasslands and grain fields.

REFERENCES: Barry 1964, Bellrose in Farrand 1983a, Johnsgard 1975b, Ryder 1967, Terres 1980.

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