Each winter, the Lesser Snow Geese travel all the way from Wrangel Island, Russia and the Arctic to winter in “warmer” parts of Canada. They travel in groups numbering in the hundreds and thousands. They are one of the most abundant species of geese in Canada (sorry, Canada Goose!), and one of three species of white geese in North America.
Identifying Lesser Snow Geese
If you see a giant honking white mass on the water or in a field during the winter in British Columbia, chances are you’re looking at a flock of lesser snow geese.
These geese are easily recognized for their white bodies, orange bills, and black-tipped feathers. Many also have an orange hue to their face due to stains from eating in iron-rich soil. A blue phase of this goose also exists. Geese with this mutation appear almost all black with white faces.
Conservation of the Lesser Snow Geese
In the 1900s, it was estimated that only 2,000 – 3,000 lesser snow geese remained. Now, the Reifel Bird Sanctuary estimates the Fraser River and Skagit River flocks alone have around 135,000 birds. However, this remarkable comeback does not mean the birds aren’t facing challenges. When a large population of geese moves into a small area, they easily deplete their food supply, sometimes leaving nothing but bare soil behind. In close quarters, it is also much easier for there to be disease outbreaks.
The geese are also vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The Audubon Society as little as a 1.5-degree Celsius increase in temperature could cause as much as a 53% loss in summer habitat for this bird. a 3-degree increase could lead to as much as a 97% summer habitat loss.