Saturday 10 March 2012

More on Snow Geese

Well I got the results back from my query to the bird banding lab about the neck-collared Snow Goose that Ken and I saw last weekend!  Turns out the bird was a female, and was originally banded on Bylot Island, Nunavut in late summer 2010. She was an adult then, so she was born in 2009 or earlier.  That means she has logged at least 20, 000 km and likely much more than that (if she is more than the minimum age). Here's the certificate I got back from the BBL with her digits:
Here's a map showing the banding location and "recovery" location:

Greater Snow Geese winter along the Atlantic coast in the NE US, then most of the population stages in upstate New York (especially around Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, not too far from where we found this bird).  After that the population stages along the St. Lawrence River, mostly in Quebec.  Greater Snow Geese breed in the high Arctic.  Particularly in recent years, they have moved west, reaching into easternmost ONtario, mostly still east of Cornwall.

I am in that area of Ontario for the weekend, and had a look around (didn't get east enough to be in prime spring Snow Goose territory).  There are as usual thousands of Canada Geese (I had about 12,000 today), but I was only able to find 2 Snow Geese at the Long Sault Parkway (here's my eBird checklist):
2 first basic blue phase Snow Geese
It is really amazing to see the migration route of these birds.  Check out the eBird map for this year (you'll have to zoom in) to see how widespread they are south of Lake Ontario, but after staging there they will all head mostly NE and avoid most of Ontario.


  1. There has been studies on the Spring Hunting and Greater Snow Geese in Quebec. Results show the migration was moving further to the west to avoid the hunt. And voila over the last 6 years they have staged in far eastern Ontario in greater numbers. This year is the first time they are hunted in Ontario in the spring. Will be interesting what they think of that. Looking forward to chasing them around in 2 weeks.

    1. Hey Tyler! Yes, I went to a talk in the fall about Snow Geese where the author of the paper being presented showed that hunting was actually having an effect on controlling the population. It will certainly be interesting to see if they respond to the spring hunt in Ontario - will they shift back to the east or keep coming west?

      I am still baffled by how far west in upstate New York they stage (at Montezuma) so maybe they'll just cut across the lake and start staging in Kingston or Presqu'ile!

      Thanks again for the note!

  2. Sweet information Mike! It's always fun getting band returns... Interesting that you had 2 "Blue" Geese.. Makes me wonder if they were western/"Lesser's"?

    1. Hey Brandon, ya it is pretty neat to actually get to find out where a particular bird goes - really makes you appreciate how amazing migration is!

      It is definitely curious about the only two Snow Geese I saw being blues, who knows! I think from what I've seen blue phase in Greater is well under 1% and the population of Lessers we see in SW Ontario is more like 50/50...but as I said, who knows!

  3. Snow Geese flocking in the thousands, maybe even tens of thousands for the last week in Curran Ontario Canada. If you want to see them, you cant miss them! They can be seen between Johnston road and Concession 9 if you are traveling along Russell Road. Watching them fly over the farmers marshy fields is like watching schooling fish performing a beautiful tornado formation. Dont know if its relevant or not...but they dont seem to be too happy that small groups of Canadian geese (groups of no more than 20 per v-formation) are trying to land anywhere near by. They take of in the hundreds to chase them away and then come back. Most of the Canadians are just changind direction and moving on to safer ground well before they are even move I think. Hope this is helpful.