Tuesday, March 11, 2014

San Diego Year Bird #179: Ross's Goose

Ross's Goose. Bayside Park, Chula Vista, California. March 2, 2014. Greg Gillson.
Ross's Geese are abundant migrants and winter visitors in the Klamath marshes of south-central Oregon and NE California. To see one in my previous home in NW Oregon  I would have to travel south the length of the state, then over the Cascades in winter. Thus I rarely got to see this little goose, unless a rare straggler showed up out-of-place. Along the West Coast they also winter in the Central Valley of California, and the south end of the Salton Sea, which is actually only 120 miles from here. But locally, it is still rather rare. This single individual has been present on the southeast shore of San Diego Bay all winter. I finally included this locale in my birding itinerary last week.

A diminutive fowl, it is barely larger than a domestic Mallard. In fact, one might be tempted to misidentify a white park duck as this species. The bill and feet are pink, not orange, and the stubby bill is thicker like a goose and not flat like a duck. Important, too, are the black wingtips of this and Snow Goose.

The Snow Goose is larger and has a bigger, longer bill. But a lone goose or family group, with no other waterfowl to compare with, can confuse.

The breeding range is the central Canadian Arctic and Hudson Bay. The main population from Arctic Canada winters in California; the population breeding around Hudson Bay winters in New Mexico, Texas, and adjacent Mexico.