Photo Credit: Marlene Cashen & Weeks Bay Reserve Foundation
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Chen rossii
DESCRIPTION: The Ross’s Goose is the smallest of the three varieties of white goose in North America. Males range from 24 to 26 inches in length and weigh an average of four pounds. Females are somewhat smaller, averaging 23 inches in length and an average weight of 3.5 pounds. The Ross’s goose has a short triangular shaped bill that is pink in color. Characteristically, the bill of this species does not exhibit the “black lips” or “grin patch” that are common in similar species, such as the Snow Goose. The adult Ross’s goose is entirely white in color, with black primaries and legs that are pink in color.
A blue phase of this species does occur but is not common place.
DISTRIBUTION: The Ross’s goose primarily breeds in the Queen Maud Gulf region of the Central Canadian Arctic. This accounts for 90 to 95% of the breeding population. Smaller populations also breed on Banks Island in the western Arctic, along Hudson’s Bay and along Southampton and Baffin Islands in the eastern Arctic. A large proportion of Ross’s geese winter in the Central Valley of California. Smaller numbers winter in New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.
HABITAT: Ross’s goose nest in the tundra regions of North America. They are fairly early migrants that spend their winters on salt or freshwater marshes, freshwater lakes and farms. This species of goose feeds primarily on grass, sedges and small grains. Because of their ability to closely crop above ground vegetation, the Ross’s Goose may delay or prevent the recovery of the tundra vegetation at sites already impacted by snow geese. Ross’s geese have been responsible for the degradation of lowland habitat in the Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary. This is predominantly due to grubbing in the nesting areas. There is also evidence that this species also impacts wetland habitat during the brood-rearing period.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Ross’s geese arrive at the nesting grounds in early May. They usually arrive in family groups. These geese nest in small colonies that afford them some protection from predators such as arctic foxes.
Preferred nest sites are usually next to rocks or patches of timber. Nests are composed of materials from the immediate area, usually moss, dead leaves, twigs and grass. Average clutch size varies from three to six white eggs. The incubation period usually takes from 22 to 25 days. The young leave the nest a few hours after they hatch. Both parents will guard and defend the young however some predation will occur on goslings. Predation primarily occurs through gull attacks or from maundering arctic fox.
Bellrose, F.C. 1976. Ducks, geese and Swans of North America, 2nd. Ed. Stackpole, Pa.
Peterson, R.T. 1947. A field guide to the birds. pp. 29.
AUTHOR: Michael E. Sievering, Supervising Wildlife Biologist III, Division of Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries, October, 2007