The Snow Goose has scattered breeding locations and scattered wintering locations, but is usually seen in large flocks in spring, fall, and winter wherever it occurs. Migration can take place during the day or at night, and the Snow Goose usually spends at least a few days at stopover sites to feed before making another long flight.
The Snow Goose population has been growing extremely quickly, numbering in the millions of birds, and is thought to be too large to maintain itself on limited and fragile arctic breeding grounds. Not only do Snow Geese breed rapidly, they also can live a long time, the record being over 26 years old.
Description of the Snow Goose
The Snow Goose comes in two color phases, “blue” and “white”. The blue geese are mostly dark bluish-gray with white heads. In flight, their white wing linings contrast with their dark body plumage and flight feathers. White birds are all white except for dark primaries visible in flight. A wide range of birds of intermediate plumage also exists. The legs and bills of Snow Geese are pink, with a black “grin patch” on either lateral edge of the bill. In addition to the widespread Lesser Snow Goose subspecies, the Greater Snow Goose subspecies appears similar but is slightly larger. Length: 28-31 in. Wingspan: 52-56 in.
Seasonal change in appearance
Immature blue geese are all dark, including the head, while immature white geese are dusky gray on the upperparts.
Snow Geese breed in tundra, but during migration and winter they inhabit grain fields, ponds, and coastal and freshwater marshes.
Related: Swan vs Goose
Snow Geese primarily eat plants or plant products, including grasses, aquatic plants, and waste grain.
Snow Geese graze on land or in shallow water.
Snow Geese breed in Arctic tundra and migrate through the major flyways of the continent to winter in California, New Mexico, Mexico, and the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. Snow Geese have increased dramatically in recent years, outstripping the food supply in the slow-growing Arctic tundra where they nest.
Snow Geese typically mate for life, and begin breeding at age 3.
Few young are produced during exceptionally cold summers.
The calls of the Snow Goose include a loud “woonk” and low grunts.
- The similar Ross’s Goose is smaller, with a smaller bill that lacks a noticeable “grin patch.”
The nest is a shallow bowl of plant material lined with down.
Number: Usually lay 3-5 eggs.
Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 22-25 days and leave the nest almost immediately, but are not fledged until about 6-7 weeks of age.
Bent Life History of the Snow Goose
Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.
Bent Life History for the Snow Goose – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.
CHEN HYPERBOREA HYPERBOREA (Pallas)
As fully explained under the next subspecies, a careful study of the available specimens of birds and eggs, from various portions of the breeding range and the winter range of this species, has demonstrated that, while the greater snow goose (nivalis) occupies a limited breeding range in northern Greenland and adjacent lands and a narrow winter range on the Atlantic coast, the lesser snow goose (hyperborea) is a much more abundant bird of much wider distribution. It breeds along the entire Arctic coast of this continent and on the islands north of it, from Alaska to Baffin Land. Its winter range extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but it is very rare east of the Mississippi Valley and much more abundant from there westward. It is especially abundant in winter in California, Texas, and Mexico.
Spring: The breeding grounds of the snow goose are so far north that we know very little about them in their summer home. They are known to us mainly as winter residents or as migrants. The lesser snow goose seems to have two main lines of flight in the spring, one from the Gulf coast directly northward through the Mississippi Valley and the Athabaska-Mackenzie region, or Hudson Bay route, to the Arctic coast, and the other from California northward, by an overland route west of the mountains, to northern Alaska and then eastward to the mouth of the Mackenzie River or beyond it. The Alaska route is not well known, and it may be that many, perhaps a majority, of the birds pass northeastward across the mountains to the Mackenzie Valley long before they reach northern Alaska. Illustrating these two lines of flight we have the following statements by E. A. Preble and Dr. E. IV. Net. son; Mr. Preble (1908) says:
The valleys of the Athabaska and the Mackenzie lie in the path of migration of great numbers of snow geese of both the eastern and western forms. The rivers themselves, however, are seldom followed by the birds, except for short distances, since their general courses trend somewhat toward the ~vest, while the lines of flight of the geese are usually nearly due north and south. Flocks of snow geese, leaving In spring the marshes at the delta of the Peace and Athahaska, a favorite stopping place, strike nearly due northward over the rocky hills, probably not again alighting until several hundred miles nearer their breeding grounds. Thus they press onward, close on the heels of retreating winter, feeding, when suitable open water is denied them, on the various berries which have remained on the stems through the winter.
Pursuing the course of the river northward, the next favorite goose ground is the delta of the Slave, where great numbers stop both spring and fall for rest and food. The low country about the outlet of Great Slave Lake is also a favorite resort. Leaving thIs point the geese in spring take a general northerly course, which suggests that their breeding grounds are north of the east end of Great Bear Lake.
Doctor Nelson’s (1887) remarks would seem to indicate that only a small portion of the birds come as far north as St. Michael and Point Barrow before they turn eastward. He writes:
The handsome lesser snow goose is uncommon on the coast of Norton Sound and about the Yukon mouth. It arrives in spring from the 5th to the 15th of May, according to the season, and after remaining a very short time passes on to its more northern summer haunts. In the vicinity of Nulato, on the Yukon, Dali found them arrivIng about May 9, on their way up the Yukon; “they only stop to feed and rest on the marshes during the dusky twilight of the night, and are off with the early light of an Arctic spring.”
According to Murdoch they are occasionally soen at Point Barrow in spring. This is all seen of these geese in spying throughout Alaska, except perhaps on the extreme northern border, for south of this none breed, and none are found after about May 25. They are far less numerous in spring than in fall along th~’ coast of Bering Sea, and their spring migration is over so quickly that they are rarely killed at that season. Doctor Adams, while at St. Michael in 1851, noted the arrival of these birds from the south in spring and their departure to the north in fall, agreeing with my own observations, as noted elsewhere.
Nesting: Although there are quite a number of sets of eggs of the snow goose in collections, the information we have regarding its nesting habits is scanty enough. MacFarlane (1891) apparently never found the nest of this bird himself, for he says:
The Esquimaux assured us that large numbers of “white waves’~ annually breed on the shores and Islands of Esquimaux Lake and Liverpool Bay, but strange to say, we never observed any in the Barren Grounds proper or on the shores of Franklin Bay. The Esquimnux brought in to Fort Anderson about 100 eggs, which they claimed to have discovered among the marshy flats and sandy islets on the coast of the former, as well as from similar localities on and in the vicinity of the lake of that (Esqulinaux) name.
There is a set of 7 eggs in the collection of Herbert Massey, Esq., taken for Bishop J. 0. Stringer, on an island in the center of the mouth of the Mackenzie River on June 20, 1896; the nest is described as a depression in the ground, lined with a beautiful lot of gray down; it was collected by an Eskimo, but the bird was shot and the head, wings, and feet were sent with the eggs. I have a set of 5 eggs in my collection from the same missionary, taken on Garry Island in the mouth of the Mackenzie River on June 10, 1912.
Eggs: The eggs of the snow goose vary in shape from ovate to elliptical ovate. The shell is thick and smoothly granulated, with a slight gloss on incubated specimens. The color is dull white or creamy white. They are usually much nest stained. The. measurements of 103 eggs in various collections average 78.6 by 52.3 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 88 by 55.5, 79.6 by ~7.2, 63.2 by 42.4, and 67.8 by 41.8 millimeters.
Plumages: In the small downy young snow goose, recently hatched, the color of the head shades from “olive buff” above to “pale olive buff ” below, suffused with ” colonial buff ” or pale yellow on the throat, forehead, and cheeks; the down on the back is quite glossy and appears “hair brown,” “light drab,” or “light grayish olive ~ in different lights; the under parts are ” pale olive buff,~~ suffused on the breast and sides with pale yellow shades.
I have seen no specimens showing the change into the juvenile plumage. In this plumage in the fall the head and neck is mottled with brownish gray or dusky, faintly below, more heavily and thickly above; the mantle and wing coverts, and early in the season the breast are washed or finely sprinkled with grayish; the scapulars, tertials, and secondaries are heavily sprinkled and clouded with grayish; the primaries are more grayish black and not so extensively black tipped as in the adult.
During the first winter and spring much progress is made toward maturity by wear and molt. The dusky markings gradually disappear, much of the contour plumage is molted, as well as the wing coverts and tail, until by summer there is little left of the immature plumage, except a small amount of grayish mottling on the head and the juvenal wings. At the complete molt that summer young birds become practically indistinguishable from adults, when 14 or 15 months old.
Food: The food of the snow goose is largely vegetable, in fact almost wholly so. during the greater part of its sojourn in its winter home. In the spring this consists largely of winter wheat and other sprouting grains and grasses; and in the fall the stubble fields are favorite feeding grounds, where large flocks are known to congregate regularly. According to Swainson and Richardson (1831) it “feeds on rushes, insects, and in autumn on berries, particularly those of the empetruin nigrum.” Doctor Coues (1874) gives the best account of its feeding habits, as follows:
Various kinds of ordinary grass form a large part of this birds food, at least during their winter residence in the United States. They gather it precisely as tame geese are wont to do. Flocks alight upon a meadow or plain, and pass over the ground in broken array, cropping to either side as they go, with the peculiar tweak of the bill and quick jerk of the neck familiar to all who have watched the barnyard birds when similarly engaged. The short, turfy grasses appear to be highly relished and this explains the frequent presence of the birds in fields at a distance from water. They also eat the bulbous roots and soft succulent culms of aquatic plants, and in securing these the tooth-like processes of the bill are brought into special service. Wilson again says that, when thus feeding upon reeds. ” they tear them up like hogs ” a questionable comparison, however, for the birds pull up the plants instead of pa.~hin.g or “rooting” them up. The geese. I think, also feed largely upon aquatic insects, small mollusks, and marine invertebrates of various kinds; for they are often observed en mud fiats and rocky places by the seaside, where there is no vegetation whatever ; and it is probable that when they pass over meadows they do not spare the grasshoppers. Audubon relates that in Louisiana he has often seen the geese feeding in wheat fields, where they plucked up the young plants entire.
Behavior: Dr. D. G. Elliot (1898) says that the snow geese fly: very high In a long, extended curved line, not nearly so angular as the V-shaped ranks of the Canada and other geese. With their snowy forms moving steadily along in the calm air, the outstretched wings tipped with black, glowing In the sun’s rays with the faint blush of the rose, they present a most beautiful sight. Usually they fly silently with hardly a perceptible movement of the pinlons, high above * * * the landscape lying so far below
WIth its towns and rivers and desert places, And the splendor of light above, and the glow Of the limitless blue ethereal spaces.”
Occasionally, however, a solitary note like a softened “honk’ is borne from out the sky to the ear of the watcher beneath. Should they perceive a place that attracts them, they begin to lower, at first gradually. sailing along on motionless wings until near the desired spot, and then descend rapidly in zigzag lines untIl the ground or water is almost reached, when with a few quick flaps they gently alight.
Vernon Bailey (1902) writes:
They are oftenest seen eli the wing high overhead in long diagonal lines or V-shaped flocks, flying rapidly and uttering a chorus of shrill falsetto cries.
Illustrating the sociability of the snow goose, in its relation to other species, ~W. Leon Dawson (1909) says:
Snow geese dispense shrill falsetto cries as they fly about in companies of their own kind, or else mingle sociably with other species. Doctor Newberry says he has often seen a triangle of geese flying steadily, high overhead “composed of individuals of three species (Chen hgpcrborca, Bra nta can adensis hutchinsii, and Anser albifrons gambefli), each plainly distinguishable by its plumage, but each holding its l)lace in the geometrical figure us though it was composed of entirely homogeneous material, perhaps an equal number of the darker speecies, with three, four or more snow-white geese flying together somewhere in the converging lines.”
At Moses Lake and again on the Columbia River I have seen a single snow goose attach itself to a company of resident Canadas: in each case through several days’ observation: appearing now alone and now in company with the larger birds. A specimen taken May 9, 1907, at Wallula was with three Canada geese (one pair and a presumed “auntie”), and these were very reluctant to leave their fallen companion.
Fall: On the fall migration, when the vast hordes of snow geese begin to wing their way southward from their Arctic summer homes, we begin to realize the astounding abundance of the species. George Barnston (1862), of the Hudson’s Bay Co., writes:
The snow goose, although It plays a less conspicuous part in the interior of the country, where It seldom alights, except along the margin of the larger lakes and streams, becomes, from its consolidated numbers, the first and greatest object of sport after the flocks alight in James Bay. The havoc spread throughout their ranks increases as the season advances and their crowds thicken, and even the Indian becomes fatigued with the trade of killing. In the fall of the year, when the flocks of young “wewais,” or “wavies,” as they are called, are numerous and on the wing between the low-tide mark and the marshes or are following the line of coast southerly, It Is no uncommon occurrence for a good shot, between sunrise and sunset, to send to his lodge about 100 head of game.
These “wavies,” or white geese, form the staple article of food as rAtions to the men in James Bay and are the latest in leaving the coast for southern climes, an event which takes place toward the end of the month of September, although some weak broods and wounded birds linger behind until the first or second week in October. They are deliberate and judicious in their preparation for their great flight southward and make their arrangements in a very businesslike manner. Leaving off feeding in the swamps for a day or more, they keep out with the retreating ebb tide, retiring, unwillingly as it were, by steps at Its flow, continually occupied in adjusting their feathers, smoothing and dressing them with their fatty oil, as athletes might for the ring or race. After this necessary preparation the flocks are ready to take advantage of the first north or northwest wind that blows, and when that sets In In less than 24 hours the coast that has been covered patchilke by their whitened squadrons and widely resonant with their petulant and Incessant calls Is silent as the grave: a deserted, barren, and frozen shore.
J. R. Forster (1772), the naturalist, who sailed with Captain Cook in this region, says:
The Indians have a peculiar method of killing all these species of geese, and like~vise swans. As these birds fly regularly along the marshes, the Indians range themselves in a line across the marsh, from the wood to highwater mark, about musket shot from each other, so as to he sure of Intercepting any geese which fly that way. Each person conceals himself, by putting round him some brushwood; they likewise make artificial geese of sticks and mud, placing them at a short distance from themselves, in order to decoy the real geese within shot; thus prepared they sit down, and keep a good lookout; and as soon as the flock appears they all lie down, Imitating the call or note of geese, which these birds no sooner hear, and perceive the decoys, than they go straight down toward them; then the Indians rise on their knees, and discharge one, two, or three guns each, killing two or even three geese at each shot, for they are very expert. Mr. Graham says he hns seen a row of indians, by calling, round a flock of geese, keep them hovering among them, till every one of the geese was killed. Every species of geese has Its peculiar note or call, which must gradually increase the difficulty of calling them.
Dr. George Bird Grinnell (1901) draws a pretty picture of migrating snow geese, as follows:
The spectacle of a flock of these white geese flying is a very beautiful one. Sometimes they perform remarkable evolutions on the wing, and If seen at a distance look like so many snowflakes being whirled hither and thither by the wind. Scarcely less beautiful is the sight which may often be seen in the Rocky Mountain region during the migration. As one rides along under the warm October sun he may have his attention attracted by sweet, faint, distant sounds, interrupted at first, and then gradually coming nearer and clearer, yet still only a murmur; the rider hears it from above, before, behind, and all around, faintly sweet and musically discordant, always softened by distance, like the sound of far-off harps, of sweet bells jangled, of the distant baying of mellow-voiced hounds. Looking up into the sky above him he sees the serene blue far on high flecked with tiny white moving shapes, which seem like snowflakes drifting lazily across the azure sky; and down to earth, falling, falling, failing, come the musical cries of the little wavies that are journeying toward the southland.
Winter: Doctor Coues (1874) refers to the abundance of snow geese in the winter resorts in California, as follows:
On the Pacific coast itself, particularly thnt of California, the birds are probably more abundant in winter than anywhere else. Upon their arrival In October, they are generally lean and poorly flavored, doubtless with the fatigue of a long journey; but they find abundance of suitable food and soon recuperate. At San Pedro, In southern California, in November, I saw them every day, and in all sorts of situations: some on the grassy plain, others among the reeds of a little stream or the marshy borders of the bay, others on the bare mud flats or the beach itself. Being much harassed they had grown exceedingly wary and were suspicious of an approach nearer than several hundred yards. Yet with all their sagacity and watchfulness: traits for which their tribe has been celebrated ever since the original and classic flock saved Rome, as it is said: they are sometimes outwitted by very shallow stratagem: the same that I mentioned in speaking of the speckle-bellies. It is strange, too, that the noise and general appearance of a carriage should not be enough to frighten them, but such is the case. I have driven in a buggy along the open beach directly into a flock of snow geese that stood staring agape, “grinning” the while, till they were almost under the horse’s hoofs; the laziest flock of tame geese that were ever almost run over in a country by-road were in no less hurry to get out of the way. Advantage is often taken of this ignorance to shoot them from a buggy; and, though they have not yet learned that anything is to l)e (Ireatled when the rattling affair approaches, yet no (101114 experience will prove a gooti teacher, and its acquirements be transmitted until they become inherent. A wild goose of any species is a good example of wariness in birds, as distinguished from timidity. A timid bird is frigliteneti at any unusual or unexpecteil appearance, particularly If it he accompanied by noise, whuile a wary one only flies from what it has learned to distrust or fear through its acquired perceptions or inherited instincts. Doctor Heermano’s notice of this species gives an idea of the immense numtiers of the birds in some localities, besides relating a novel method of hunting theni. He says they” often cover si densely with their masses the plains in the vicinity of the marshes as to give the ground the appearance of being clothed in snow. Easily approached on horseback, the natives sometimes near them in this manner, then suddenly putting spurs to their anhnals, gallop into the flock, striking to the right atid left ~vith short clubs, and trampling them betieath their horses’ feet. I have known a native to procure 17 birds in a single charge of this kind through a flock covering several acres.”
Walter F. Bryant (1890), in comparing their status then with past conditions in California, writes:
There has not, so far as I am aware, been a very marked decrease in the number of geese which annually visit California, but the area over which they now feed is considerably less than in 1850. In the fall of that year, my father, while going from San Francisco to San Jose, met with acres of white and gray geese near San Bruno. They were feeding near the roadside, indifferent to the presence of all persons, and in order to see how close be could approach he walked directly toward them. When within 5 or 6 yards of the tiearest ones they stretched up their necks and walked away like domestic geese; by making demonstration with his arms they were frightened and took wing, flying but a short distance. They seemed to have no idea that they would be harmed, and feared man no more than they did the cattle in the fields. The tameness of the wild geese was more remarkable than of any other birds, hut it must be understood that in those days they were but little hunted and probably none had ever heard the report of a gun and few had seen men. This seems the most plausible accounting for the stupid tameness of the geese, 40 years ago. What the wild goose Is to-day on the open plains of the large interior valleys of California those who have hunted them know. By 1853 the geese had become wilder and usually flew before one could get ~vithin shotgun range, if on foot, hut in an open buggy or upon horseback there was no difficulty. There was a very marked contrast between the stupidly tame geese after their arrival in the fall and the same more watchful and shy birds before the departure in spring of the years 1852 and 1853. This is an important fact, showing not only the change in the instinct occurring within three years, but the more remarkable change, or It may be called the revival of the instinct of fear, which was effected within a few months; to this point I will refer again.
The following quotations from (irinnell, Bryant, and Storer (1918) will give a fair idea of present conditions in California:
There has been a more conspicuous decrease in the numbers of geese than in any other game birds in the State. Many observers testify that there is only 1 goose now for each 100 that visited the State 20 years ago, and some persons aver that in certain localities there is not more than 1 to every 1,000 which formerly occurred here. Not only have these birds been slaughtered for the market, but gangs of men have been paid to destroy them where they were feeding in grain fields. Until 1915 they were afforded no protection whatever, and as a natural result their ranks have been so often decimated that, comparatively speaking, only a remnant now remains.
In former yenrs, when passing through the Sacramento or San Joaquin Valleys by train, great flocks of white geese, in company with other, dark-colored species, were often to be seen sitting on the grain fields or pasture lands almost within gunshot of the cars. The days are past and gone when a man has to drive geese from his grain field. In many places where formerly the ground was so covered with white geese as to look snowelad, not a single goose is now to he observed feeding and but few flying overhead, in spite of the extreme shyness and watchfulness of these geese, the ingenuity of the hunter nnd the increased efficiency of firearms has so far overbalanced the natural protection thus afforded that the birds are now actually threatened with extinction. Unless the protection now furnished proves a(lequate In the very near future, this State, which at one time appeared to have an inexhaustible supply of geese, will have entirely lost this valuable game resource.
That snow geese are abundant in winter in certain parts of Texas is well illustrated by the following note made by Herbert IV. Brandt in Kleberg County:
On March 23, 1919, we went up to the Laureless Ranch headquarters and got Mr. Cody, the foreman, to go for a ride with us. lIe showed us a new road and took us to Laguna Larga, a great marshy tract C miles long in the plains. The water Is not deep and grass grows up through it all over, and there are a few small patches of tules or cat-tails, but it all dries up If the summer Is dry. As we approached it looked as if it was covered with snow, but It proved to be thousands upon thousands of snow geese and other wild geese. Here Is their winter home, coming Into the great pastures at night to feed on the abundant grass. Last year for the first time known a couple of large flocks remained the entire summer. It was the most wonderful sight In bird life I ever saw, and it will never be forgotten, as cloud after cloud of white and black birds took to wing and then settled down in a distant part of the marsh.
Mr. Kleberg told us that the geese we saw were just a few left from the great winter flocks, most of them having now departed for the nolthland. He has seen 500 acres of solid geese, he said, just one snow bank. He hunts them by taking his big Packard car and runs toward them on the prairies at 60 miles an hour. The wind Is always blowing here and the geese must rise and fly against it; as they are overtaken they work the pump shotguns on them.
Breeding range: Arctic America, along the coast from northern Alaska (Point Barrow) eastward to Hudson Bay (Southampton Island) and Baffin Land, and on Arctic lands and islands north of North America. Has been seen in summer on the Arctic coast of northeastern Siberia (Tchuktchen Peninsula), where it probably breeds. It may breed farther west in Siberia.
Winter range: Includes the whole of temperate North America from the Atlantic to the Pacific, rare or straggling, mainly as a migrant, on the Atlantic coast, uncommon east of the Mississippi Valley and most abundant in California, Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana. East rarely to Rhode Island (Narragansett Bay, January 10, 1909), more frequently to the coasts of Virginia and North Carolina and probably only casually to the West Indies. South regularly to the Gulf coasts of Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas, and to central Mexico (Tamaulipas and Jalisco). West to the Pacific coast States. North to southern British Columbia (Vancouver), Nevada, Utah, southern Colorado (San Luis Valley), southern Illinois, and sparingly to the coast of Virginia. South on the Asiatic coast to Japan.
Spring migration: Mainly northward in the interior and northwestward or northeastward from the coasts to inland valleys. Early dates of arrival: Iowa, Sac County, March 28; Montana, Teton County, April 9; Manitoba, Aweme, April 5; Mackenzie, Fort Simpson, May 2, and Fort Anderson, May 20; Banks Land, Mercy Bay, 740 N., May 31; Alaska, St. Michael, May 5, Nulato, May 9, Kowak River, May 23, and Cape Prince of Wales, May 31. Late dates of departure: Southern Texas, Rio Grande River, March 29, and San Angelo, April 16; California, Gridley, May 1; Utah, Bear River, May 5; Montana, Teton County, April 23; Manitoba, Shoal Lake, April 30; Mackenzie, Fort Simpson, May 25.
Fall migration: A reversal of spring routes, with more eastward wanderings (practically all New England records are in fall). Early dates of arrival: Maine, Cape Elizabeth, October 2; Massachusetts, Essex County, October 7; New York, Shinnecock Bay, October 8; Mackenzie, Providence, August 30; Alberta, Buffalo Lake, September 26; Manitoba, Aweme, September 24; Arkansas, Helena, October 19; Louisiana, Cameron County, October 7; Texas, San Angelo, October 1; Montana, Terry, September 12; Utah, Bear River, September 3; California, Stockton, September 28; Alaska, lVainwright, September 6, St. Michael, September 1, and Taku River, September 17. Late dates of departure: Banks Land, September 7; Alaska, St. Michael, October 10; Alberta, Buffalo Lake, October 26; Manitoba, October 31; Montana, Teton County, November 24; Massachusetts, Ipswich, December 7.
Casual records: Snow geese, probably of this form, have wandered on migrations to Labrador (Independent Harbor, October 1, 1914), Florida (Wakulla County, October 30, 1916, and November 23, 1918, and Key ‘~Vest), Bermuda (October 19, 1848), South Carolina (Mount Pleasant, October 16, 1916), the Bahama Islands, Cuba, Jamaica, and Porto Rico. Said to have occurred in the Hawaiian Islands. It has been recorded in Iceland, Norway, Holland, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, etc. The numerous European records suggest the probability of a more extended breeding range in Palaearctic regions than is now known, with a westward migration.
Egg dates: Arctic Canada: Nineteen records, June 9 to July 6; ten records, June 15 to 23.
GREATER SNOW GOOSE
CHEN HYPERBOREA NIVALIS (J. R. Forster)
When I first began to study the distribution of this large subspecies I was skeptical as to its status, for it did not seem to have any well-defined breeding range or winter range, and it looked very much as if the large birds could be nothing more than extra large individuals. My confusion was due to the fact that I did not know where to draw the line between the greater and the lesser snow geese. I found that my friend Frederic H. Kennard had been studying the same problem for some time, and while he had collected considerable data, which he placed at my disposal, he was waiting for additional data before publishing it.
For the purposes of this life history it will suffice to give merely the general conclusion I have arrived at and a brief statement of the steps which led to them. A collection of the measurements of over 250 birds from various parts of the country, when tabulated according to size, shows very clearly that an extra large subspecies, now called nivali~, occupies a very narrow winter range on the Atlantic coast, which it reaches by a decidedly eastern migration route from its breeding range in northern Greenland. All of the largest birds come from extreme eastern localities; I have seen only one bird from the interior that I should call nivalis; that is an immature bird in the , labeled Hudson Bay, which, if it came from there, is probably a straggler. All of the birds from Atlantic coast States and Provinces are nivalis, except a few very small ones which are doubtless stragglers from the westward and are referable to hyperborsa. The average measurements of all the birds from Atlantic coast points, including the small birds referred to above, are decidedly larger than the average measurements of birds from the interior or from the Pacific coast States.
The average measurements of all the birds from the interior, from Hudson Bay to Texas, agree very closely with the average measurements of a series of birds from California. This shows conclusively that. the birds of the interior are unquestionably referable to the smaller form, hyperborea, and that the larger birds from that region, which have been called nivali~~, are merely large specimens of hyper borea, which can be nearly, if not quite, matched with birds from California. The measurements of the greater snow goose do not well illustrate its real superiority in size; it is a much heavier bird than its western relative, with a much more stocky build, thicker neck, and larger head. It is generally recognizable at a glance, in the flesh.
The breeding range of the greater snow goose must be determined largely by elimination, though it is clearly indicated by two specimens from northern Greenland; these are the only Greenland speciinens of snow geese that. we have; they are both typical nivali.~; and one was the parent of a downy young. The average measurements of 26 birds from the Arctic coasts of Alaska, Canada, and Baffin Land agree very closely wit.h those from California and the interior, and none of them are any larger than the largest birds from these localities. A study of the average measurements of 20 sets of eggs from Arctic America, collected at various points from Point Barrow to Baffin Land, shows no correlation of size with locality; the largest 2 sets came from Cape Bat.hurst and Franklin Bay; and the smallest 2 came from Mackenzie Bay and Point Barrow. Judging from the evidence shown in the measurements of both birds and eggs, it seems fair to assume that nit~a1is does not breed anywhere on the Arctic coast from Alaska to Baffin Land and that all the breeding birds of that region are referable to kyperbo’rea. This leaves for ni~cdi8 a known breeding range in northern Greenland, which probably extends into Ellesmere Land, Grinnell Land, and Grant Land.
Spring: Although we have very little data on the subject, what evidence we have seems to indicate that the greater snow geese. which spend the winter on the Atlantic coast, migrate overland across New England to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and then across the Labrador Peninsula to their Arctic summer home. William Brewster (1909) published a letter from M. Abbott Frazar giving an account of a large flock of snow geese which he saw migrating at Townsend, Massachusetts. on April 13, 1908. There were at least 75 birds in the flock. Although the subspecies is in doubt, the chances are that these were greater snow geese. The following note, published by 1-Jarrison F. Lewis (1921), throws some light on the subject:
Most recent writers on the waterfowl of northeastern North America speak of the greater snow goose (Chen hgperborcu~ niraU~ [Forst.]) as a rare bird in that area and appear to pay little or no attention to the fact that Mr. C. E. Dionne. on pges 109: 110 of his book. Les Olseaux (le in Province (hi Qnehec (1906), states of this subspecies that it ‘is very common and often occurs in cons:(ierabie ilocks in spring and fail in certain places on our shores, notably at St. .Ioachim, where I have seen flocks of three or four thousand individuals, on the Island of Orleans, and as far as the Sea-Wolves’ ilnttnre.” The three points mentioned by Mr. Dionne are within sight of one imother. In their vicinity probably all the greater snow geese in existence in a wild state ga4lier each spring and autumn. From the indepen(lent staternent.s of various carefol ubservers. I should conclude that their number is now aI)out five or six thousand. When I visited St. Joachim on March ~1, 1921, I saw about 2,000 greater snow geese there and was told that the maximum number would be present about 10 days later. They are ~vell protected by a resident warden maintained by the Cap Tourinente Fish and Game Club.
Kumlien (1879) “saw a few specimens in early spIin~ and late autumn” at Cumberland Sound, where it. was apparently “rare and lriigratOry.’ W. Elmer Ekblaw has sent meï the following notes on the arrival of these geese on their breeding grounds in northern Greenland:
June is almost gone when the first snow geese arrive in northwest Greenland. The land is almost hare of snow, the inland lakelets are open, and rushing streams are flush to the brim with clear, cold water. Spring is at its height when the snow geese come. The first notice of their arrival is a high-pitched honk-honk, almost resembling the call of the domestic guinea fowl, that rings out clear and sharp from the swales and valleys of the inland slopes. The birds fly low and swift, their gleaming white plumage dazzlingly conspicuous against the dark-brown hills. When they fly near, the black tips of their wings are easily recognizable. They stalk regally about the lakelets and along the streams like the snow king’s soldiers, stately and dignified. They are mated when they arrive in the North, and though they stay in flocks most of the time, they pair as soon as they alight, either on land or in water. Wherever they appear they grace the landscape.
On July, 2, 1914, I watched a flock of 10 at close range while they fed In a small shallo~v pool in which Pleuropoyon and Hippuris grew ahundantly. There were 5 pairs in the flock, and though they did not separate far, the pairs kept somewhat to themselves as they floated idly about in the pool or marched about the shore. They apparently found food on the bottom of the pool, because they dipped under much like canvasbacks feeding on wild celery. I watched them for at least an hour, delighted with their grace and quiet beauty. Their calm behavior contrasted strongly with the wild antics of the oldsquaws in near-by pools.
Nesting: A long time ago Dr. Witmer Stone (1895) published a list of birds collected by the Peary expedition of 1891 and 1892 in northern Greenland, in which were included an “adult female in worn plumage and one young gosling entirely in down” of the greater snow goose. These birds were collected by Langdon Gibson, the ornithologist of the expedition, in the vicinity of McCormick Bay, latitude 770 40′ north. The measurements of this bird clearly indicate that it is a typical specimen of Chein /typerborea nThaUs and this constitutes the only definite breeding record we have for this subspecies. Recently Mr. Gibson (1922) has published his notes on this collection, from which I quote as follows:
It was my good fortune to record, for the first time, the breeding of this species in north Greenland. A family was found In Five Glacier Valley on July II, 1892. The male disputed my advance with head lowered and much his~ing, quite after the fashion of the barnyard goose, and before I was aware of the existence of goslings I shot the female. Then I took two of the goslings, that were about 2 weeks old, leaving the gander to rear the remaining six. The birds were on the nest at the time of capture. The nest itself was well lined with grasses and placed near a pile of broken stone beside a marshy spot some acres in extent and about 100 yards from a shallow pond.
On August 21, when again passing through the valley, I was happy to see the male proudly marching at the head of his family of six at least 10 miles from the nest. As he had a broken wing and his family then had every indication of being able to shift for themselves, I reluctantly, and in the interest of science, dispatched him.
A brief note in the report of the Greeley (1888) expedition to Grinnell Land indicates that this goose probably breeds on this and other lands west of northern Greenland, as a pair was seen June 12, 1882, near Fort Conger, latitude 82~ north, and another June 13, 1882, on the shore of Sun Bay. The snow geese found breeding in northern Greenland by the Crocker Land Expedition were undoubtedly greater snow geese, but unfortunately no specimens of birds or eggs were preserved. Mr. Ekblaw’s notes state:
The geese nested in the grassy swales and flats along the lake-dotted flood plain of the streams which empty into North Star Bay. The nests are placed in depressions among the tussocks so that the brooding birds are not readily detected; built up somewhat with mud and grass and dead vegetation and lined with white feathers and down, they are much better constructed than are the nests of the eider and the oldsquaw.
The first eggs are laid soon after July 1. A full clutch Is 6 or 7 eggs. In about four weeks they hatch. The mothers and the young frequent the larger inland lakes until the young are able to walk and swim and dive fairly well, and then they take to the open sea. In late August or early September the fall molting season comes on. The geese then repair to the most remote and isolated lakes to be safe and free from disturbance while their wing feathers are renewed. At this time they are relatively helpless and the Eskimo find them easy prey. By mid-September the molting season Is over and the geese leave at once.
Eggs: Apparently there are no eggs of the greater snow goose in collections. All the eggs in collections came from regions where this subspecies is not known to breed and are almost certainly referable to the smaller race.
Plumages: The downy young, referred to above, is described by Dr. D. G. Elliot (1898) as follows:
Lores, dusky. Two black stripes from bill, passing above and beneath the eye. Top of head, dark olive brown. Sides of head, neck, and entire under parts, light yellow. Upper parts, dark olive brown. Bill, black; nail, yellowish white.
The subsequent molts and plumages are apparently the same as those of the lesser snow goose.
Food: The food and the feeding habits of the greater snow goose are very much like those of its western relative. It has less opportunity, in the Eastern States, to feed in grain and stubble fields, as such cultivated areas are scarcer and more restricted. Perhaps for this reason these geese seem to be more often seen on the seacoast marshes and beaches in the East than they are in the West. Mr. Elisha J. Lewis (1885) the veteran sportsman, writes:
Snow geese are numerous on the coast of dersey and in the Delaware Bay. They frequent the marshes and reedy shores to feed upon the roots of various marine plants: more l)articularly that called sea cabbage. Their hills being very strong and well supplied with powerful teeth, they pull up with great facility the roots of sedge and all other plants.
Harold H. Bailey tells me that on the coast of Virginia they come into the hollows on the sandy beaches to pull up the beach grass and other scanty s and-dune plants to feed on the roots; they do not come into the fresh-water bays with the Canada geese to feed on the fox-tail grass.
Behavior: Audubon (1840) writes:
The flight of this species is strong and steady, and its migrations over the United States are performed at a considerable elevation, by regular flappings of the wings, and a disposition into lines similar to that of other geese. It walks well, and with rather elevated steps; hut on land its appearance is not so graceful as that of our common Canada goose. Whilst with us they are much more silent than any other of our species, rarely emitting any cries unless when pursued on being wounded. They swim buoyantly, and when pressed, with speed. When attacked by the white-headed eagle, or any other rapacious bird, they dive well for a short space. At the least appearance of danger, when they are on land, they at once come close together, shake their heads and necks, move off in a contrary direction, very soon take to wing, and fly to a considerable distance, but often return after a time.
Winter: IRegarding its winter habits Doctor Elliot (1898) says:
On the northern portion of the Atlantic coast the snow goose can not be said to be common, and in many parts is seldom seen. Small flocks are occasionally met with on the waters of Long Island, but the species becomes more abundant on the shores of New Jersey and the coasts of Virginia and North Carolina, where, in the latter State in the vicinity of Cape Hatteras and along the beaches and inlets of Albemarle Sound, it sometimes congregates in great multitudes. Occasionally flocks of considerable size may be seen on the inner beach of Currituck Sound where the water is brackish, Uut the birds do not remain any length of tune in such situations. They present a beautiful sight as they stand in long lines upon the beach, their pure, immaculate plumage shining like snow in the sun, against the black mud of the marshes or the dingy lines of the shore. It is very difficult to approach them at such times, as they are exceedingly watchful and wary, but occasionally a few may leave the main body and, If flying by, will draw perhaps sufficiently near to geese decoys or live geese tied out in front of a blind to afford an opportunity for a shot. The chances are better, however, for the sportsman when these geese are moving in small flocks of six or seven, as they are then more apt to Come near the shore looking for favorable feeding places or spots on the beach to sand tliemsclves.
H. H. Bailey tells me that these geese are not now as common on the Virginia coast as formerly, that they do not come until cold weather in midwinter, and that they spend most of their time in Chesapeakc Bay or on the ocean, resorting to the hollows among the sand dunes of the outer beaches when these are l)artially covered with snow and ice.
Breeding range: Positively known to breed only in northern Greenland (McCormick Bay, latitude 770 40′ north, and North Star Bay). Probably breeds also in Ellesmere Land, Grinnell Land (Fort Conger), and Grant Land.
Winter range: Mainly, if not wholly, on the Atlantic coasts of Maryland. Virginia, and North Carolina, from Chesapeake Bay to Core Sound. Probably all the birds from farther south are referable to hyperborea.
Spring migration: Directly north, overland across New England and the Labrador Peninsula. Early dates of arrival: New York, Shelter Island, April 3; Massachusetts, Townsend, April 13; Maine, Scarborough, April 4; Quebec, St. Joachim, March 31, and Hatley, April 6; Greenland, Etah, June 10. Late dates of departure: North Carolina, Currituck Sound, March 6; Maine, Georgetown, April 25, and Lubec, April 30.
Fall migration: A reversal of spring route. Early dates of arrival: Quebec, St. Lawrence River, October 12; Massachusetts, Westfield, November 24; Connecticut, Portland, November 20; North Carolina, Currituck Sound, December 11.
Casual records: An immature bird in the United States Nation~L Museum is labeled Hudson Bay, with no further data. Probably all records for Bermuda and the West Indies are referable to hyperborea, as that is the wider-ranging form, but ïsome records may refer to nivali.s.
CHEN CAERULESCENS (Linnaeus)
Previously a separate species, now a subspecies of the snow goose.
The blue goose is one of the few North American birds which we know only as a migrant and a winter resident, and within the narrowest limits. It has generally been regarded as a rare species. but it is really astonishingly abundant within the narrow confines of its winter home on the coast of Louisiana. Its apparent rarity is due to the fact that on its migrations to and from this favorite resort its seldom straggles far from its direct route to and from its unknown breeding range. To find the breeding resorts of the blue goose is one of the most alluring of the unsolved problems in American ornithology. It is really surprising that such a large and conspicuous species, which is numerically so abundant, can disappear so completely during the breeding season.
Spring: Numerous records from various observers indicate a heavy spring migration northward through the Mississippi Valley and over the Great Lakes to James Bay and Hudson Bay, bu~ beyond there the species vanishes completely. No one knows where the blue goose goes to spend the summer and none of the numerous Arctic explorers have ever found its breeding grounds.
The blue goose migrates generally in flocks by itself and usually the old white-headed birds are in separate flocks from the young birds; but occasionally one or more dark-blue geese may be seen leading a flock of pure white-snow geese, which makes a striking picture. The main flight in the spring seems to pass up the east side of James Bay.
Owen Griffith says, in a letter published by Mr. W. E. Saunders (1917):
About 3 miles north of Fort George Post there is a big bay (salt water) with lots of mud and grass at low tide, and in the spring almost every flock of wavies and other geese feed in this bay on their way north; the Indians never hunt them on their arrival in this bay, but gather on a long hill on the other side and then shoot at the birds as they are going off; they generally get up In small flocks, and as they have to rise considerably to clear the hill they can be seen getting up some lime before they get to the hill, and then everyone runs along a path and tries to get right under where the flock Is going to pass; of course, if three or four flocks get up at the same time, there is shooting on different parts of the hill and the hunters are apt to spoil one another. The Indians say that once these birds leave this bay that they do not feed again till they get far north (Hudson Straits or Raffia Land) In fact a wavey’s nest Is a great rarity. Strange to say they do not feed in this hay In the fall.
Dr. Donald B. MacMillan, who spent the spring and part of the summer of 1921 at Bowdoin Harbor in southern Baffin Land, says that the blue geese and snow geese migrate from Cape Wolstenholme across to southern Baffin Land. He was told by the natives of that country that both of these geese breed in immense numbers in the marshy lands near some lakes in the interior, a region too difficult to reach and too remote from where his ship was frozen in until August..
Nesting: There seems to be no authentic record of the finding of a nest of the blue goose and, so far as I know, the nest and eggs in a wild state are unknown to science. All that has been published on the breeding habits or the probable breeding range of the species seems to be based on speculation or hearsay. George Barnston (1862), one of the best authorities on the geese of the Hudson Bay region, says that:
According to Indian report a great breeding ground for the blue wavy ia the country lying in the interior of the northeast point of Labrador, Cape Dudley Digges. Extensive swamps and impassible bogs prevail there, and the geese incubate on the more solid and the driest tufts dispersed over the morass, safe from the approach of man. * * ~ In May it frequents only James Bay and the Eastmain of Labrador, and it is probably the case that its hatching ground is on the northwest extremity of that peninsula and the opposite and scarcely known coast of Hudson Straits.
Eggs: Hon. R. M. Barnes has kept. blue geese on his estate at Lacon, Illinois, for a number of years and has succeeded in raising them to maturity in confinement. He says in a letter to Mr. Frederic H. Kennard t.bat the eggs of the blue goose are quite different from those of the snow goose. He describes the eggs of the snow goose as more elongated and of a slightly yellowish color,” whereas the eggs of the blue goose “are pyriform, of thicker diameter, shorter in proportion to their length, and have a very slight bluish cast,” the eggs of both appearing white at first glance; moreover, the eggs of the blue goose have “more minute pit boles and apparently most of these. pit holes have a very small deep black center, which can only be disclosed by a microscope.” An egg in Mr. Kennard’s collection is pure white and very finely granulated. It measures 78 by 51 millimeters.
The measurements of four eggs, laid by one of Mr. Barnes’s birds, are. 81 by 54.2, 84.6 hy 56, 81.2 by 55.8, and 81 by 60.2 millimeters. The nest was lined wit.h “the purest of white down.”
Plumages: Mr. Barnes says that the downy young of the blue goose “is of a deep smoky or slatv bluish color.” F. E. Blaauw, who has also raised this species in captivity, describes it as “olive green, darkest on the upper side and yellowish on the belly,” with a little white spot under the chin.”
In the fresh juvenile plumage of the first fall, October, the chin ]5 white, the entire head and neck are uniform bluish gray, the back very dark gray, with brownish edgings, and the under parts dull gray, almost whitish on the belly; the wings show a dull reflection of the adult color pattern, the lesser coverts are more or less edged ot~ tipped with brownish, the greater wing coverts are plain pale gray, the primaries and secondaries are duller and browner black than in adults, and the tertials and scapulars are either plain dusky brown or are less conspicuously patterned than in adult birds.
During the first winter there is a nearly continuous molt, with a gradual advance toward maturity. White feathers appear in the head and neck early in the winter, and by spring these have become nearly all white in some birds, but there is generally more or less black on the crown and hind neck. The bluish-gray feathers of the adult plumage invade the lower neck and breast, much new plumage comes in on the back, and new scapulars are partially or wholly acquired. The tail is molted in the spring, beginning sometimes as early as the last of February, but not the wings. Before the birds go north in the spring many of the first-year birds are practically indistinguishable from adult birds except for the immature wings.
What takes place during the following summer we can only guess at, as summer specimens are lacking, but apparently a complete summer molt produces the second winter plumage, which is practically adult. The head and neck become wholly white, or nearly so. The ï wing is practically adult, with the pure gray lesser coverts and the pale gray primary coverts; tile greater Cove-its have black centers, shading off into silvery gray, and broad, white etlges ; the scapulars and ter: tials have the adult color l)atteLn and the p~marics and secondaries are deep black. Tile under parts are mainly bluish gray, and the rump and upper tail coverts are clear pale gray.
Subsequent molts produce similar plumages, and probably thirdyear and older birds show greater perfection of plumage and more brilliant color l)atterns. Many adult birds show more or less white on the under parts, in strong contrast with the bluish gray, varying from a small spot to aï large area covering nearly all of the belly; this may be the result of crossiniz with the snow goose or it may be a character which develops and increases with age. Some observers believe that the blue goose is a dark-color phase of the snow goose. Mr. Blaauw. who has bred both species for some ~22 years. has conIc to this conclusion. On tile other hand, Mr. Barnes who has also bred both, has come to tIle opposite conclusion; in addition to the difference in tIle eggs and young, he says that the ‘~ l)uild of the two birds is very different, and their physical appearance is very distinct. The call notes are not very similar.” It seems to me that tlley are too unlike in many ways to be color l)llases of one species. and I can find no conclusive evidence to prove that they are. They are very closely related; so that, like the mallard and black duck. they can interbreed and raise fertile hybrids, which they probably frequently do.
Food: The feeding habits of the blue goose have been well described by W. L. MeAtee (1910), as follows:
In the Mississippi Delta the blue geese rest by day on mud flats bordering the Gulf. At tile time of my visit (January 29 to February 4, 1910) these were entirely destitute of vegetation, a condition to which the geese had reduced them by their voracious feeding. Every summer tbese flats are covered by a dense growth of “cut grass” (the local name for Zizciajopsis aiiliacea), “goose grass” (Scirpus robustus), “oyster grass” (.Spartina glabre), “Johnson grass” (Panicum repens), and cat-tails or ‘flag grass” (Typha augustifoka), and every fall are denuded by the blue geese, or brant, as they are called in the Delta. The birds feed principally upon the roots of these plants, but the tops of all are eaten at times, if not regularly. Each goose works out a rounded hole in the mud, devouring all of the roots discovered, and these holes are enlarged until they almost touch before the birds move on. They maintain themselves in irregular rows while feeding, much after the manner of certain caterpillars on leaves, and make almost as clean a sweep of the area passed over.
In the Belle Isle region the method of feeding is the same except that the birds feed by day, but the places frequented are what are locally known as “burns”; that Is, areas of marsh burned over so that new green food will sooner be available for the cattle. These pastures, for the most part, are barely above water level, so that the holes dug by the geese immediately fill with water. Continued feeding in one area produces shallow, grass-tufted ponds, where formerly there was unbroken pasture. Some of these ponds are resorted to for roosting places, in which case the action of the birds’ feet further deepens them, and veritable lakes are produced, which the building-up influence of vegetation can not obliterate for generations, and never, in fact, while the geese continue to use them.
The numbers of the blue geese are so great that these effects are not local but general. At Chenjere-au-Tlgre, one proprietor formerly hired from two to four men at a dollar a day, furnishing them board, horses, guns, and ammunitIon, and keeping them on the move constantly in the daytime to drive the geese away. The attempt was unsuccessful, however, and fully 2,000 acres of pasture were abandoned. Other proprietors had similar experience and suffered loss of the use of hundreds of acres.
The stomachs and crops of the birds in my collection were sent to the Biological Survey for examination by Mr. McAtee, who reported that the contents consisted entirely of the stems of spikerush (Eleocharis), of which those in the crops were whole and those in the gizzards finely ground.
Mr. Hersey was told, while collecting blue geese for me in Louisiana, that they also feed on the duck potato, one of the principal duck foods in that vicinity. In his notes on their feeding habits he states:
In reviewing my experience with the blue geese it seems that normallp they begin to feed about 2 p. m. and continue to do so until dark. They then fly to their roosting ground, where they spend the night. Some time before daylight the flocks again begin to feed, and do so until about 9 or 10 o’clock. They then rest until the afternoon, usually without leaving the feeding ground.
While feeding, small parties are continually flying into the air and moving to a new spot on the outskirts of the flock. If they see anyone approaching at such times, they at once warn their companions and the whole flock takes wing with great clamor.
Behavior: O. J. Murie has sent me some interesting notes on this species in which he says:
The blue geese are apparently not as prone to fly in the V formation as the Canada geese. The flocks are often broken in a mixture of V’s, bars, curves and irregular lines. Perhaps this is due to the immense numbers in the flocks noted on James Bay. When a flock of “waveys” is passing, the Indian hunter wiU imitate their call by a single, high-pitched “guop “: very different from the double “au-unk” in the case of Canada geese. As the blue geese approach with answering calls, an accompanying undertone Is heard, a conversational “qa-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga,” with an occasional clear “whistle.” The whisthug note is the call of young birds. The Indian makes use of all these sounds, employing the “cackling” notes and an occasional whistle when the birds are near enough to hear it.
On one occasion, while lying in a blind, I heard a peculiar, startled “squawk.” Looking up I saw a single blue goose pursued by a duck hawk. The goose ducked and swerved here and there in his flight, with the duck hawk swooping after. The chase continued some distance down the marsh, when finally the duck hawk turned aside and gave it up.
Fall: Mr. Murie says of the fall flight:
The extensive salt.water marshes around the south and part of the west shore of James Bay furnish an excellent feeding place for shore birds and various ducks and geese, including thousands of blue geese. I was told that blue geese are seen as early as August. By September at least they begin to arrive in James Bay, and during this month and most of October they congregate in immense flocks, principally in Hannah Bay, at the extreme south end of James Bay. Here the Indians go for their annual goose hunting. A blind of willows is placed at a favorite feeding spot, often beside a small streamlet cutting its way by several channels over the mud flat. For decoys, lumps of mud or sod are turned up with a wooden spade. In the top of each lump is thrust a small stick or twig, at the end of which is fastened a piece of folded paper, or, better yet, a small bundle of white quills from a snow goose is stuck in to represent the white head. These crude decoys are very realistic at a distance and prove effective.
The blue geese feed on the open tide flats, while the Canada geese are often found in the swamps or open muskegs well within the margin of the forest. The birds become extremely fat, sometimes bursting open in the fall to the ground when shot. According to native information they do not feed at all the last few days before they begin their flight farther south. In 1914 the blue geese were seen leaving for the south, up the Moose River, on November 1. The following autumn they went south October 21 and 22. In each case sno~v was falling, with a north or northeast wind.
Winter: Few people, who have not seen them, appreciate the astonishing abundance of blue geese in the narrow confines of their winter home on the coast of Louisiana.
Mr. Hersey states in his notes:
I am told that before going north most of the flocks congregate in the vicinity of Great and Little Constance Lakes on the Gulf coast west of Vermilion Bay. These flocks are said to he enormous, but the estimates I heard of their numbers were too vague to be of use. One game warden, a very conservative man, told me, however, that he once saw a spot 5 miles long and 1 mile wide (approximately), covered with blue geese, all standing as close together as they could get. Three men fired 5 shots into this flock and picked up 84 dead birds.
Mr. McAtee (1910 and 1911) found these geese exceedingly abundant in a very restricted area on the Louisiana coast. He writes:
The center of abundance of the species is a narrow strip extending along the coast of Louisiana from the Delta of the Mississippi to a short distance west of Vermilion Bay. To the eastward the bird is known only as a straggler, and to the ~vest it diminishes gradually in numbers, being scarce on the extreme western coast of Louisiana and rare on the Texas coast. * * * Being so localized in their winter range, it might seem that – the blue geese are in danger of extermination. But they are so wary and so few hunters molest them that at present there is no appreciable reduction in their numbers by man. The same is true, I feel sure, of the winter colonies of snow geese and swans on Currituck Sound, North Carolina. So long as conditions remain the same, the birds beilig very wary, and having little market value, there is no incentive to kill them, nothing occurring during their stay in the United States will materially lessen their numbers, nor even hmterfere with the increase of these fine birds. However, if they should become an object of pursuit, it is equally true that they would diminish very rapi(lly.
Breeding range: Recently reported as breeding in large numbers in the interior of southern Baflin Land. Breeding range otherwise unimown.
Winter range: Mainly in a very restricted area on the coast of Louisiana; from the mouth of the Mississippi River to Vermilion Bay, decreasing very rapidly in abundance eastward and more gradually westward to the coast of Texas (Rockport, Corpus Christi, and Brownsville). Has been recorded in winter as far north as Nebraska, southern Illinois, and Ohio (New Bremen, January 17. 1916), but probably only casually.
Spring migration: Northward through the Mississippi Valley up the east coasts of James Bay and Hudson Bay. Early dates of arrival: New York. Amagansett, March 21; Rhode Island, Westerly, March 16; Illinois, Lacon, March 23; Iowa, March 28; Manitoba. Aweme, April 9; Ontario, Kingsville, April 6. Late dates of departure: New York, Millel~ Place, April 28; Manitoba, Shoal Lake, May 29.
Fall migration: Southward across the eastern United States; more easterly than in the spring. Early dates of arrival: Ontario, Ottawa, October 11; Maine, Umbagog Lake, October 2; Massachusetts, Gloucester, October 20; Rhode Island, Charlestown Beach, October 16; Manitoba, Shoal Lake, October 1; Illinois, Gary, October 21; Louisiana, November 1. Late dates of departure: James Bay, Moose River, November 1; Ontario, Thames River, November 16; Maine, Little Spoon Island, November 13; Rhode Island, Dyers Island, November 9; New York, Amityville, November 22; Manitoba, Aweme, October 24.
Casual records: Rare in Atlantic coast States, but records are too numerous to be regarded as casuals. Has been recorded in North and South Carolina, the Bahama Islands, and Cuba. There are two good records for California (Stockton, February 1, 1892, and Gridley, December 15, 1910).