Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens)
A flock of snow geese in flight looks like a wavy line. Hunters call these birds wavies, not because of their flight formation, but in reference to their Chippewa name- wewe.
Although their name suggests an all-white plumage, snow geese occur in two colour phases, white and ‘blue’. White phase snow geese have white bodies, heads, and necks, with black wingtips, while blue phase individuals have white necks and heads, but the lower neck and body are a dark greyish-brown. Intermediates that have combinations of the two plumages occur frequently.
The snow goose breeds in the northernmost Arctic regions- Greenland, Baffin Island and Ellesmere Island- as well as in a few scattered colonies around Hudson Bay.
Breeding occurs on low, barren ground near water. Nests, built in a depression on the ground, are constructed of grass and moss and are occasionally lined with down.
The snow goose is primarily herbivorous, eating the roots, shoots, and bulbs of grasses, sedges, and aquatic vegetation, although it will also eat insects and some aquatic invertebrates. In the fall, berries, aquatic plants, and grain crops comprise a large proportion of the diet. Snow geese have a characteristic feeding technique known as ‘grubbing’- using their bills to dig for the carbohydrate-rich roots of aquatic plants. They also graze, clipping the stems and leaves of sedge and grasses. When many geese feed continuously in one place, the area can be stripped bare of vegetation.