Here at 10,000Birds.com, we love to share. We share our love of birds and birding. We share our experiences, good and bad. We share our passion for conservation and our concerns for the natural world in all its splendour and its vulnerability.
We also share our problems, as the saying goes, “a problem shared, is a friend lost.” With so many problems to choose from, this is the one that is taking up most of my time this week. What kind of a weird goose is this?
I first noticed it 3 seasons ago when it showed up in a local farmer’s sheep field. At this time it was alone. I assumed it to be some kind of domestic breed or an escapee and didn’t pay it much attention. Despite being alone, it appeared to associate with the sheep in much the same way that it might with a flock of its own kind. But what might its own kind be?
It returned last year with a small flock of Canada Geese and then again this year with a much bigger flock, nearing 150, that contained more oddities. I am going to make a big assumption and put it to you that it migrated north during the summer and has returned to the farm for the winter, picking up a flock along the way and leading them back here. So who is this enigmatic leader of birds that started as a sheep and now leads flocks across great distances?
The first impression is of a very pale, blue phase Snow Goose. But then compare the size of it against the Canada Geese. It is far bigger than a Canada Goose whilst it should be noticeably smaller (even a Greater should be lesser).
It has pink legs and its bill is orange with pink on the upper mandible, towards the tip. There is a narrow, orange eye ring and neck pleats. Some of the photos suggest a prominent forehead, but this is not very noticeable in the field. I worry that the idea of a pale, blue phase Snow Goose is clouding my perception. I could not see black in the primaries. The bare parts combination suggests input from a Greylag Goose. Could it be as simple as Greylag/Canada?
So let’s move on…. another weird goose in the same flock may prove easier to work out. It is associated with the same flock which is made up mostly of Canada Geese. I think we could start there?
The body plumage, looks warmer than that of the Canadas behind, but I am willing to overlook that to allow the likelihood that there are some white-fronted genes in there too. But the legs are pink and the bill is dark. Large bill and white eye-ring are contrary marks, not really convincing me of either Greater or Lesser White-fronted Goose.
So I am throwing this over to you. Does anyone have experience of similar hybrids? If we could decide which of the white-fronted geese have been messing with the Canadas, then it may even be possible to deduce where the other goose has been spending its summers.
If you have any thoughts, please share them. We love sharing!