Center at Fairfield

Bird Finder for January 19: Ross’s Goose, a Connecticut Rarity

Goose, Ross 2m Jan2011DickDanielsRoss’s Goose
Chen rossii

by Andy Griswold, Director of the Connecticut Audubon Society’s EcoTravel program

Grab your spotting scope and head to East Windsor to look for this rare visitor to Connecticut (and several other rare visitors as well).

Ross’s Goose is the smallest of our North American goose species, significantly smaller than its very similar looking cousin the Snow Goose. When comparing these two species, look for the tiny bill and distinctively diminutive shape of the Ross’s; petite compared to the more wedge-shaped of the Snow Goose. As with Snow Goose, Ross’s has two color forms, dark and white. Be sure to study the subtle differences of body plumages.

More commonly found on the central flyway during winter months, this is a great bird for Connecticut. The Connecticut location has been on and in the area of Broad Brook Mill Pond in East Windsor. Find the large group of Canada Goose and start looking through the flock for any white goose. A spotting scope is definitely needed as the bird can sometimes be a good distance away at this site.

If you really want to see Ross’s Goose in good numbers, join us for one of our frequent trips to Arkansas during winter months. The area we visit in Arkansas is called “The Rice Capital of North America” and the geese know to take advantage of these dormant fields as a winter feeding ground.

Interestingly there have been a number of other fine goose species discovered among the thousands of Canadas in this East Windsor flock, including Pink-footed Goose, Greater White-fronted Goose, and Cackling Goose, the Pink-footed being the rarest of the group (although this is not its first occurrence in our state).

Ross’s Goose has enjoyed a significant increase in its population size because of changed agricultural practices and diminished hunting pressures since hitting a low number of 2,000 to 3,000 individuals in the early 1950s. Now estimated at over two million individuals, there is concern, in conjunction with a similar increase in population for Snow Goose, that the Arctic wetland habitat where they nest may be in peril due to overpopulation.

Photo by Dick Daniels, Carolinabirds.org

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