Interesting Goose in Somerset Co.: Ross’s?; Ross’s x Snow?, Dec. 28, 2012

Goose season is in full swing. Somerset, Hunterdon and Mercer Counties have had everything from Barnacle to Pink-footed to Snow Geese and all that is in between. In between takes on a different meaning with a goose that Jeff Ellerbusch found this afternoon at Lincoln Avenue Park in Manville. At least 2,000 Canada Geese populated the park as well as one attractive white goose with black primaries. Superficially based on size alone, one might have twitched this as a Ross’s Goose and left it at that. If you know Jeff, superficial is neither in his vocabulary nor his identification methodology. Studying the bird for hours was not enough to create a 100% positive identification. Pouring over photographs later in the day only confounded the issue: pure Ross’s or Ross’s x Snow Goose.

First of all, it certainly is not a Snow Goose (SNGO). The individual has juvenile Ross’s Goose (ROGU) traits. The size and proportions fit ROGO. The neck appears short enough to be a ROGU. It is with the head and the bill where the identification becomes problematical. The bill looks more elongated than purely stubby. There appears to be a suggestion of a grin patch. The head shape could be rounded as in ROGU or more flattened as in SNGO but photos are misleading especially when take from a distance and different angles present different perspectives. Jeff’s original impression in the field was hybrid, Ross x Snow. After spending an evening studying pictures the 2-man consensus agrees with that assumption…then again maybe not. There isn’t any concrete certainty. Hopefully the goose will stay in the area. A few pictures are presented below. Constructive comments are appreciated.

All photos are by Jeff Ellerbusch. The pictures are displayed in a gallery format. Click on a photo to start the sequence. Click on the X in the upper left-hand corner of the gallery screen to return to this page (If you don’t see the photos in the email post, click the subject header of the post to view them on the web site).

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One Response to Interesting Goose in Somerset Co.: Ross’s?; Ross’s x Snow?, Dec. 28, 2012

  1. Rick Wright says:

    Thanks for the great pictures and the puzzle. The problem is that we don’t really know (and probably cannot know) how snow-like a “pure” Ross’s Goose can look or how Ross’s-like a “pure” Snow Goose can look–and we really don’t know whether there is such a thing as either, given the tremendous increase in the populations of both and thus of opportunities for miscegenation. This bird’s bill length doesn’t bother me much, but the tomia flare more than I’d be comfortable with, and the feathering comes a bit far out onto the base of the upper mandible. But que sais-je? It’s an interesting bird beyond doubt!

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