Snow Goose Anser caerulescens (or Chen caerulescens)

Snow Geese are popular in captivity and escapes occur frequently. However genuinely wild birds do occur occasionally and in Norfolk these are most likely to be found among the wintering Pink-footed Goose flocks (though one accompanied Whooper Swans a few years ago). They are rare though, and the earliest of the Norfolk birds shown below followed a gap of several years.

The majority of Snow Geese occurring in the UK are thought to be Greater Snow Geese A. c. atlantica but smaller individuals are occasionally attributed to the more westerly originating nominate form, Lesser Snow Goose A. c. caerulescens. The first bird shown below is small and is believed to be a Lesser Snow Goose, though both forms vary in size and I'm not sure how possible it is to be sure.

Blue (and/or intermediate) morph Snow Geese are particularly rare here and the individual shown here was possibly the first such wild bird to be seen in the county, apart from a bird of unknown origin with Taiga Bean Geese in the winter of 1973/74. Most blue morph Snow Geese are Lesser Snow Geese and the small size of this individual supports that identification.

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Lesser Snow Goose, south of Brancaster Staithe (Norfolk, UK), 17th October 2006

 

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Blue (or intermediate) Snow Goose, south of Brancaster (Norfolk, UK), 6th October 2006

 

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Blue (or intermediate) Snow Goose, south of Brancaster (Norfolk, UK), 30th November 2006. The same bird as shown above. This bird, and the white one above it, spent several weeks among the 100,000+ Pink-footed Geese in Norfolk before finding each other. By the time this photo was taken the two birds were normally seen in each other's company.

 

first-winter Snow Goose, Holkham (Norfolk, UK), 22nd January 2005. This bird remained with the Pink-feet until 7th May when it was seen departing to the north. The same day it was seen passing several sites in Yorkshire before ending up in Northumberland, 170 miles north-west, by early evening.

 

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Snow Goose, Choseley (Norfolk, UK), 4th December 2007

 

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Snow Goose, NNE of Docking (Norfolk, UK), 21st October 2009

 

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Snow Goose, Stiffkey Fen (Norfolk, UK), 21st March 2009 - a lone bird of unknown origin, but almost certainly an escapee

 

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Snow Goose, between Brancaster Staithe and Docking (Norfolk, UK), 4th February 2010

 

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Snow Geese, Tayinloan (Argyll & Bute, UK), 15th March 2014

 

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Snow Goose (with Canada Geese), Salthouse (Norfolk, UK), 28th October 2009 - one or two birds have been in the area all summer, so almost certainly an escape (perhaps the same as the Stiffkey bird above)

 

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Snow Goose, Titchwell (Norfolk, UK), 14th December 2009

 

Snow Goose, Cley (Norfolk, UK), 2nd June 2010 - presumably the same escaped bird as at Salthouse shown above

 

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Snow Goose, Titchwell (Norfolk, UK), 25th December 2009

 

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Snow Goose (with Pink-footed Geese), Choseley (Norfolk, UK), 3rd December 2014 - presumably a Lesser in view of its dinky size

 

Here's one from its native range in North America:

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first-summer Snow Goose, Roberts Lake, Seaside (California, USA), 1st May 2005

 

The following are captive birds - having not previously noticed how orange the base of a Snow Goose's bill can look I considered whether these could be hybrids, but quickly discounted that as they showed no other sign of impurity. Further investigation revealed that it's not so unusual for a pure Snow Goose to show orangey tones at the base of the bill.

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captive Snow Geese (with Bar-headed Geese), Grange-over-Sands (Cumbria, UK), 28th December 2011 - two adults and a first-winter

 

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captive first-winter Snow Goose, Grange-over-Sands (Cumbria, UK), 27th December 2012 - accompanying 3 adults which I presume were the same 3 birds photographed a year earlier