South Dakota
Birds and Birding
Like this page? Give me a +1!!

Snow Goose

Chen caerulescens

Length: 28 inches Wingspan: 55 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: White morph has white body and wings with black primaries, dark morph have a white head and neck with a bluish gray body.  Distinct "grinning patch" on the beak.  Compare to Ross's Goose.

Snow Goose - Chen caerulescensOnce considered two separate species, the Snow Goose and the Blue Goose are now considered white and dark morphs of one species, the Snow Goose.  The two morphs readily interbreed and may produce offspring of either morph.  Note Ross's Goose is very similar to the Snow Goose, with the primary difference being a smaller size for the Ross's.   Hunted to extremely low populations by the start of the 1900's, huge migrations of Snow Geese now make their way through the state, stopping at traditional locations including the lakes around Lake Thompson in Kingsbury County and Sand Lake in Brown County.  A photo of a white and dark morph swimming together is shown on the right.

Habitat: In migration through the state, found on shallow lakes, marshes, and flooded fields.  Often feeds on waste grain in agricultural fields.

Diet: Seeds, waste grain, leaves, roots, grasses, aquatic vegetation, berries.

Behavior: Except during the breeding season, Snow Geese are very gregarious, forming large flocks that sometimes include other goose species.  Foraging is primarily done by walking through shallow water or on land.

Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota

Song: Snow Goose Song

Migration: Summers in or near the Arctic Circle, winters in scattered locations through the United States and Mexico.

Similar Species: Ross's GooseClick here for identification tips for Snow and Ross's Goose.

Conservation Status: The total population of Snow Geese was reduced to only a few thousand by 1900.  It has made a tremendous comeback, to the point that overpopulation of Snow Geese on summer breeding grounds is causing localized habitat destruction.

South Dakota "Hotspot": Thousands of Snow Goose regularly use Sand Lake in Brown County during migration to and from their summer breeding grounds.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Snow Goose

2) Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Snow Goose

3) Whatbird.com: Snow Goose

4) eNature.com: Snow Goose 

Photo Information: Minnehaha County - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Snow Goose photos.

 

Click on the range map for a higher-resolution view
Snow Goose - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant with higher concentrations in the eastern part of the state. Rare in winter.