Above: Ross's Goose by Christian Artuso
How Do I Recognize It?
Only slightly larger than a Mallard, the diminutive Ross’s Goose (Chen rossii) looks like a miniature Snow Goose. It is mostly all white with black primary feathers on the wings, with a short neck, a stubby, triangular pink bill (darker at the base) and pink legs. Much less commonly seen is the “blue morph” Ross’s Goose, which is mainly sooty grey with a white head and undertail. Immatures are pale grey above and white below, with the legs, feet and bill also grey, turning to pink.
Does It Migrate?
Ross’s Goose breeds in the High Arctic and winters primarily in central California, though this is changing. Post 1950, increasing numbers of Ross’ geese spend the winter in Arkansas and Louisiana, as well as in New Mexico and Texas. Some may winter as far south as the north-central highlands of Mexico. Fresh- and saltwater marshes or shallow lakes are frequented in winter.
Above: Ross's Goose trio by Christian Artuso
Where Does It Live?
A colonial nester (often found with Snow Geese), Ross’s Goose breeds mainly in the High Arctic, but nesting also occurs along the southern and western shores of Hudson Bay, and in the western Arctic. A scrape (shallow depression) in the ground serves as a nest.
Where Can I See It?
In autumn, you can find Ross’ Goose at Whitewater Lake and Oak Hammock Marsh. You may also be able to pick out a Ross’ Goose or two by carefully looking through flocks of Snow Goose on staging grounds throughout southern Manitoba (areas where hundreds to many thousands of birds stop to feed, and rest, before continuing their migration).
Above: Ross's Goose pair by Christian Artuso
At the turn of the 20th century, Ross’s Goose was considered rare. As a result of conservation measures implemented since then, numbers have risen dramatically and are still on the rise. Future threats to Ross’ Goose populations include loss of wintering habitat, destruction of breeding habitat, and food availability.
Did You Know?
Ross’ Goose is one of only a handful of avian species to nest exclusively in Canada.