GCBO's Bird of the Month: December
Ross's Goose

Ross’s Goose ( Chen rossii ) is an uncommon to locally common migrant and winter resident on the Coastal Prairies, the High Plains from Lubbock County northward, and the central and western Trans-Pecos in Texas. With the substantial population growth in this species, its winter range has expanded and increased numbers are being reported. They begin arriving in Texas in mid-October with most present by mid-November and begin to migrate north in mid-February with a few lingering into early April. Sometimes a few may even remain through the summer months. Their preferred winter habitat is agricultural fields and shallow wetlands which contrasts with their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra. They are frequently found with Snow Geese which in Texas usually outnumber them substantially.

Ross’s Goose is a member of the Anatidae Family (Swans, Geese, and Ducks). They are very similar to Snow Geese except they are much smaller. The bulk of Ross’s Geese are white though “blue” morphs are occasionally seen. Ross’s Goose has a gray-based red-orange bill. The legs and feet are red-orange and the primaries are black. The wings are narrow in flight and the head is rounded with a short neck. Snow Geese and weighs twice as much as Ross’s Geese and have a more elongated dirty white head, longer neck, and a longer bill that is pink with a black patch.It is usually pretty easy to spot the smaller Ross’s goose in a flying Snow Goose flock. Their typical weight is 2.7 lb or 1,250 grams. They are generally quiet and less vocal than Snow Geese. Their call is a loud, nasal honk, “keek-keek” or “honk-honk”.

Interesting Facts:
   They were first reported as the “Horned Wavey” by explorer Samuel Hearne during his travels to the central Canadian Arctic between 1770 and 1771, but were not described for science until almost a century later (Cassin 1861).

   The nesting grounds were not discovered until 1940 when Angus Gavin located them in the Perry River region of the central Canadian Artic.

   Downy young come in two colors: yellow and gray. The two forms look identical once they get real feathers.

   Very rarely a Ross's Goose can be found that is dark-colored like a blue morph Snow Goose. These blue morph Ross's Geese may be the result of hybridization with blue-morph Snow Geese.

   The female Ross's Goose does all of the incubation of the eggs. The male stays nearby and guards her the whole time. The female covers the eggs with down when she leaves the nest. The down keeps the eggs warm while she is away and may help hide them from predators.

   Their population has increased from a low of 2,000-3,000 in the early 1950s to an estimated global population of 1,100,000.

   The oldest known Ross's Goose was a female, and at least 22 years, 6 months old when she was shot in California in 1993. She had been banded in 1972 in Saskatchewan.

   A group of geese has many collective nouns, including a “blizzard”, “chevron”, “knot”, “plump”, and “string” of geese.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from GCBO!

To download Joe Fischer's photo of this festive goose, click HERE

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