Ask a Biologist
Can you give me some pointers on how to identify a Ross goose from a Snow goose?
Q: I’m looking to get out snow goose hunting for the first time this spring. Can you give me some quick pointers on how to identify a Ross goose from a Snow goose?
A: Finally...we can start getting excited about the spring snow goose season! What a long, daunting winter!
For those who are unaware, Ross geese are not to be taken during the spring snow goose harvest in Canada. This regulation does not apply in the US. So for my fellow Canadians, the task of correctly identifying a Ross goose amongst a flock of Snow’s can be challenging...even for experienced snow goose hunters.
From a distance flocks of Ross and Snow geese can be differentiated by their calls. Ross geese have a higher pitched squeaky two-syllable call; while snow geese have a lower pitched one-syllable call. Another way to differentiate the two from a distance is by their wing beats. Ross geese have a more rapid wing beat in comparison to Snow geese.
As the birds move into your shooting range, you will see that Ross geese are significantly smaller in size, they have a shorter neck, and a rounder head compared to the longer neck and flatter head on snows. Both species are present in two color phases (white and blue-phase), however Ross geese are mostly white in color. Blue-phase Ross geese are rare and hard to come by.
Looking at the two species in hand (hopefully with these tips you won’t have this opportunity), snow geese have a black “smile patch” where the upper and lower bills meet. This patch is absent in the Ross geese. The beak on a Ross goose is shorter and more triangular, often with wart-like bumps at the base.
Best of luck this spring!