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franklin county times

Snow geese numbers increasing in state

By By James L.Cummins
Special to The Star
October 8, 2004
The snow goose is an ever increasing species of goose in Mississippi. It has two color phases, a blue phase and a white phase. "Snows," as they are commonly called, are highly sought after birds in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, but the increasing occurrence of larger populations still hasn't generated a high demand by the Magnolia State's waterfowlers.
The snow goose is 27 to 31 inches in length and averages about 4.5 pounds per juvenile and almost 6 pounds per adult. Adults of the white phase are completely white with black wing tips and pink feet, bill and legs. Immature white-face snow geese have a gray head, neck, back and upper wing surface. Wing tips are black and the bill and legs are grayish-brown.
Adults of the blue phase have a bluish-gray body and a white head, neck and tail. There are varying amounts of white on them. The bill, feet and legs are pink. The immature phase is dull brownish gray with a gray upper wing, bill, feet and legs.
Snow geese found in Mississippi nest in colonies in the arctic and sub-arctic regions of North America from Baffin Island to Wrangel Island in Siberia. The largest colonies, however, are centered around the western coast to Hudson Bay. Snow geese nest on low, grassy tundra plains. Nests consist of scrapes on the ground that are made with vegetation such as moss, grass, sedges and willows. Most snow geese do not nest until they are three or four years of age. The average number of eggs each goose lays is four, with a 60 to 90 percent hatching success.
Snow geese begin migrating from the breeding grounds in mid August with the most of it occurring in September. During migration snow geese are found resting and feeding largely on agricultural areas of corn and winter wheat. As they migrate south, they shift to a diet of rice, soybeans and winter wheat.
Snow geese winter across the south central and western United States with the largest concentrations found in the central valley of California and the Gulf Coasts of Texas and Louisiana. Recently, larger concentrations are wintering in Mississippi, in response to favorable habitat conditions. The birds usually arrive in early December with the majority arriving in January. They remain here throughout winter and begin flying back to breed the first warm days of February.
Almost all of the snow goose management occurs on migration and wintering areas. As with other waterfowl, management consists primarily of providing geese with food, water and protection, such as the rice fields of Mississippi.
James L. Cummins is executive director of the Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation in Stoneville,
Mississippi. Known as "Wildlife Mississippi," the foundation is a non-profit organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi. The Web site is www.wildlifemiss.org.

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