The Snow Goose is a large bird, we sometimes see them in small numbers along the Pacific Northwest coast during the winter months. Adults here on the coast are usually all white with dark primaries and orange legs. Juveniles are gray overall with dark legs. There are two subspecies of Snow Goose, the Greater and the Lesser Snow Geese, which vary in size.
Snow Geese nest on the northern tundra, never more than 8 or 9 km of the ocean. Greater Snow Geese will nest on higher ground and the lesser will nest on the lowland areas. Snow Geese flocks can be quite large during migration. Snow Geese forage mostly by walking in shallow water or on land, usually in flocks that include other geese. They rip vegetation from the ground and can cause plenty of damage to parks and other open areas.
These geese feed almost entirely on plants. During the breeding season, they eat many seeds, leaves, and roots of aquatic vegetation. The newly hatched birds will feed on insects as well. During the winter months, they will feed on berries, grassroots, and grain that is left after fields have been harvested.
Pairs form long term bonds in the second year, but they do not mate until the third year. Females will return to the place they hatched to breed. The female selects the nest site and builds the nest. The nest is a shallow depression lined with plant material and down feathers, this nest is usually used from year to year. She will lay up to 5 eggs. The female incubates the eggs for up to 24 days, and the young leave the nest within a few hours of hatching.
Although the young feed themselves from the get-go, both parents tend to and protect them throughout the summer months. After about 50 days they can fly, but they will remain with their family until they are 2 to 3 years old. Sometimes this means there are up to 20 young birds in various stages of growth at one nest area.