Ross’s Goose

For months I had been seeing two geese at our county park.  I couldn’t figure out why this obvious pair had different markings.  After research, it dawned on me that I was looking at two different species with different field marks.  My pair was a Ross’s Goose and a Snow Goose. Ross's Goose|Whittier Narrows|South El Monte, CA   By reading some more, I discovered that they do mate and hybridize.  It’s nice to know that I’m not crazy!

Description

The Ross’s Goose is about the size of a Mallard, and is the smallest and rarest of the North American Geese.  It is a pure white goose with black wing tips, a small stubby pinkish-red triangular bill which is gray-blue at the base, and pink legs. It has a short neck with a round head.  It is smaller than the Snow Goose and you won’t find the black “grinning patch” or lips. This goose also has a rare variation;   it is dark colored with a white head and a mottled body. The immature Ross’s Goose has a light gray crown, back and wings.

Range and Habitat

Summers, the Ross’s Goose is found in the Arctic and in Canada on the tundra, in fields, marshes, prairies, ponds and bays.  The majority of these geese winter in the California Valleys: the Sacramento Valley, the San Joaquin Valley, and the Imperial Valley.  They are also found in the southern states, the Mississippi Valley. and some are found on the east coast.

Behavior

You will probably see the Ross’s Goose as it grazes on grass or as it walks and wades in shallow water while feeding.  It feeds mostly on grains and grasses and often can be found with Snow Geese.  Sometimes it will share winter grounds with the Snow Geese, but the two stay in separate flocks.  Ross’s Geese migrate long distances from their nesting grounds in the arctic to their wintering grounds in California and the south.  They have very fast wing beats and fly in “V” formations.  They also can be found roosting in large flocks. The Ross’s Goose is gregarious and has a higher pitched call than the Snow Goose but is also known to make crackling and grunting noises.

Breeding and Nesting

The Ross’s Goose nests in colonies on tundra lake islands or rivers. The grass nest is on a scrape in the ground and is down-lined.  The female lays 3-5 white eggs and will incubate the eggs from 21-24 days.  The young leave the nest a few days after hatching and are led to the water and to food by both parents.  The male aggressively defends his young against predators.  The goslings fledge in about 45 days.

Ross’s Goose Photo Gallery