Snow (Geese) in the Forecast
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds” website includes this sentence: “Watching huge flocks of Snow Geese swirl down from the sky, amid a cacophony of honking, is a little like standing inside a snow globe.” In winter, those of us living on Maryland’s Eastern Shore are right there in that snow globe. My drive to the Arboretum passes by numerous farm fields, and each winter I’m freshly amazed at the blizzard of geese on all sides.
During the summer months, snow geese breed in the Canadian and North Alaskan tundra. Females build shallow scrape nests that they line with their own downy feathers. Social to the extreme, these medium-sized geese with thick necks and pink bills can form flocks of up to several hundred thousand. They migrate along all four of North America’s largest flyways, wintering on fields and in wetlands, where they forage for grasses, sedges, rushes, roots, tubers, and other vegetation. Female snow geese will spend up to eighteen hours a day foraging, which may explain the astonishing six to fifteen droppings they produce each hour.
In 1916, the hunting of snow geese was prohibited due to low population levels. Hunting was reintroduced in the 1970s following a significant increase in the population levels, which continued to rise in the years that followed. This is a good thing for cold weather lovers like myself: snow or no snow, we can count on the geese to bring some winter white to the landscape.
by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Director