Snow goose | American birds

   ›      ›   Snow goose - Anser caerulescens

The snow goose (Anser caerulescens) belongs to the family of duck, goose and swan, the Anatidae.

The snow goose is distributed over Far east Russia (Wrangel Island), Canada, USA and Mexico. In its natural habitat, this goose species occurs as white and blue morphs. This goose is a polytypic species.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Snow Goose Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Appearance, physical description and identification

The snow goose (Anser caerulescens) is a large goose, measuring 65 to 85 cm in length and weighing 1600 to 3000 grams. The wingspan is 130 to 165 cm.

The snow goose occurs as white and blue morphs. The white-morph has all white plumage, except the black wing tips. The blue-morph has bluish gray plumage, except for the white head, neck and tip of tail. The head gets stained rusty due to minerals in the soil.

The bill is pinkish with black cutting edge. The irises are blackish. The legs and feet are pinkish red. The call is a loud, short, high-pitched, barking "quawk" or "la-luk" sound.
Snow goose - Anser caerulescens
1.Snow goose - Anser caerulescens
Image by DickDaniels (

Snow goose - Anser caerulescens
2.Snow goose - Anser caerulescens
Image by Cephas

Snow goose - Anser caerulescens
3.Snow goose - Anser caerulescens
Image by Cephas

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The snow goose is distributed in Far east Russia (Wrangel Island), Canada, USA and Mexico. Some breeding populations are recorded in Europe. It is not clear whether they are feral populations or vagrants.

The snow goose subspecies A. c. caerulescens breeds in southwest Baffin Island (Canada), northern Canada, northern Alaska (USA) and Wrangel Island (far northeast Russia). It winters in western and central USA and Mexico.

The subspecies A. c. atlanticus breeds in northwest Greenland (Denmark) and the northern islands in Baffin Bay (Canada). It winters in central and eastern USA.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of the snow goose in USA are, Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, Coastal Prairie, Delaware Bayshore Region and Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area.

Some of the IBA of the snow goose in Canada are, Akimiski Island, Beaverhill Lake, Bellshill Lake, Cap Tourmente, Delta Marsh, Hannah Bay, Kamouraska, Luck Lake, Montmagny, Saint-Vallier, Southwest Bylot and Thomsen River.

The IBA of the goose in Russia are Cape Billings and Wrangel and Herald Islands.

Ecosystem and habitat

The snow goose species does not normally occur in forest. It normally occur in altitudes between 0 to 2500 meters. The artificial habitats and ecosystems of this species include agricultural lands.

The natural ecosystems and habitats of the goose species include temperate grasslands, tundra grasslands, intertidal marshes with emergent vegetation, freshwater wetlands and rocky areas and inland cliffs.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of the snow goose species consists mainly of plant matter. Grass, roots, tubers, leaves, flowers, buds, sedges, aquatic plants and grains are their primary food.

These birds usually feed in flocks. They congregate in spectacular numbers for feeding in their stopover habitats along their migratory route. They are also seen flocking the harvested wheat fields.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of the snow goose species is in June in most of its breeding range. This species is monogamous and pairs for life. It is a colonial breeder and highly territorial.

The breeding sites are found in Arctic tundra near water bodies. The nest is usually built by the female. The nest is a shallow depression on high ground, filled with moss and lined with grass and down feathers.

The clutch normally contains five to six eggs. The female incubates the eggs. The chick hatch out after 22 to 24 days and soon leave the nest. The hatchlings can feed themselves. They can fly after 45 to 50 days.

Migration and movement patterns

The snow goose species is fully migratory. Breeding populations occur in USA (north Alaska), Canada, Greenland (Denmark) and Far east Russia (Wrangel Island). After breeding, they move southwards for wintering.

The goose species winters in USA and Mexico and along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts of these two countries.

They return to the breeding grounds in early summer. Passage birds are found in Mexico, USA and Canada.

Snow goose - Quick Facts

  • Scientific name: Anser caerulescens
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Anas caerulescens Linnaeus, 1758
  • Family: Anatidae › Anseriformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia,
  • Vernacular names: English: Snow goose, Chinese: 雪雁, French: Oie des neiges, German: Schneegans, Spanish: Ánsar nival, Russian: Белый гусь , Japanese: ハクガン
  • Other names: Greater Snow Goose, Lesser Snow Goose, Blue Goose
  • Distribution: Far east Russia, Canada, USA, Mexico
  • Diet and feeding habits: seeds, hedges, roots, tubers, leaves, grass, aquatic plants
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the snow goose (Anser caerulescens) is estimated at 5,300,000 to 6,200,000 individual birds (Wetlands International 2015). The overall population trend of the species is considered to be increasing.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is relaxing hunting restrictions on snow goose from time to time to conserve the fragile arctic habitats from irreversible damage by the exploding goose populations.

In most of its range, this species is reported to be very common. The generation length is 8.9 years. Its distribution size is about 9,720,000

Ecosystem degradation, ecosystem conversion, severe weather, climate change,sport hunting and capture for pet-trade are the main threats that may endanger the survival of the species.

IUCN and CITES status

The snow goose (Anser caerulescens) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable either under the range size criterion or under the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the goose species and has listed it as of "Least Concern".

The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the snow goose (Anser caerulescens).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Anser caerulescens
Species:A. caerulescens
Binomial name:Anser caerulescens
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
The two recognized subspecies of the snow goose (Anser caerulescens) are:
A. c. caerulescens (Linnaeus, 1758) and
A. c. atlanticus (Kennard, 1927).
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1.Image source:,_Snow_Luray_VA.jpg (cropped)
Author: DickDaniels ( | License: CC BY-SA 3.0 as on 10/20/18
2.Image source: (cropped)
Author: Cephas | License: CC BY-SA 3.0 as on 10/20/18
3.Image source: (cropped)
Author: Cephas | License: CC BY-SA 4.0 as on 10/20/18
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