Ross’s Goose (Chen rossi) are easily distinguished from their larger snow goose cousins by their smaller, somewhat stockier stature, short necks, lack of a grinning patch. Barnacle-looking caruncles on bills most conspicuous on older adult males, often getting gnarlier with age, but nearly lacking on females and juvenile males. Adult plumage for both sexes is entirely white, apart from the black primary feathers, accompanied by a short orange-pink bill and matching legs. While extremely rare, blue phase Ross’s Geese do occur as with Snow Geese. Even though the young are either yellow or gray, when they mature into adults, they become identical. Juveniles also possess more muted orange on their bills and legs/feet, and plumage appears grayer than adults. This species is not extremely vocal, however during migration will use a high-pitched keekkeek keek call and a lower hawh hawh grunting. I believe they’ll generally decoy better than snow geese.
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Their breeding grounds are distributed on the coast of northwestern Canada with a few residing in northern Alaska, where they will nest in Snow Goose. This species displays long-term monogamous pairings, males have been known to attempt to breed with additional females. Ross’s Geese typically forage for plant matter at the surface level but have been known to occasionally consume insects. During the breeding season, diet is focused on grass and sedge roots that become available as the land thaws. As the tundra continues to warm, they will eat on young shoots from cottongrass, birch, and sedges. The Ross’s Goose then migrate using the Mississippi, Central, and Pacific Flyaways to wintering grounds in and around Texas, down into Mexico, and California’s Central Valley. While wild plants such as yellow sweet clover and spikerush are available, this species will also feed in crop fields.
According to Partners in Flight, the global breeding population estimate for the Ross’s Goose is about 1.7 million and is currently of low conservation concern. This is stark difference from their struggling population in the 1960s can be attributed possibly to increased annual temperature in the arctic and to increased agricultural habitat through their migrational corridor and on the wintering grounds.