Ross geese are often mistaken for lesser snow geese due to
their similar appearance. However, Ross geese are smaller, have
a shorter bill, and have a faster wing beat.
Lesser snow geese ( Chen caerulescens caerulescens) and Ross
geese (C. rossi) flock together on the breeding grounds,
wintering grounds, and on stops along the migratory route. They are
very difficult to distinguish when they mix together.
Larger lesser snow geese constitute the majority of the birds
causing habitat degradation in the Arctic due to their aggressive
feeding strategies. Lesser snow geese graze, grub (overturn the soil
in search of roots), and pull and break off shoots of grass.
The rapid growth of these species populations coupled with
their feeding strategies has exerted significant pressures on the
breeding grounds resulting in widespread habitat degradation (link to
pictorial) that affects numerous migratory birds, including lesser
snow and Ross geese. The populations must be reduced to halt the
degradation and allow the breeding grounds to recover and sustain the
rich ecological diversity so many species have come to depend on.
Geese are referred to either as light geese or dark
geese based on their basic coloration. Snow and Ross geese are light
geese. Most lesser snow and Ross geese exhibit a white phase where
the whole goose is white. However, some lesser snow and Ross geese
also exhibit a blue phase where they are brownish with a
primarily white head. At one time, blue phase and white phase lesser snow
and Ross geese were considered to be two different species. Genetic
research determined that they were indeed the same species with two color
Canada geese and white-fronted geese are dark geese.
These species exhibit a brownish color over their entire body with
white or lighter accents in some cases. Dark geese do not exhibit
another color phase.
The lesser snow and Ross goose populations causing the habitat
degradation in the central and eastern arctic and subarctic breed in the
eastern and central portions of northern Canada and migrate and winter in
the Central and Mississippi Flyways, also known as the Mid-continent
regions of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. They spend the winter
primarily in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Arkansas and in
some northern States in Mexico.