13 March 2012

Rare Hybrid Geese at Squaw Creek NWR

A rare occurrence of a hybrid goose was first reported at Squaw Creek NWR on March 4th. The Wachiska Audubon Society of Lincoln, Nebraska was visiting the the goose was first observed and reported.

The Ross's Goose x Blue Goose hybrid was noted by the group and identified by ornithologist Paul Johnsgard, according to a member of the society. This was the first time he has seen this sort of hybrid during his decades of observing waterfowl.

The goose was about the same size as a Snow Goose but "had the head shaped like Ross's with some blue 'warts' on the bill, according to an Audubon member.

This one goose was among the throng of Snow Goose present.

On March 10th, two birders from Missouri visited the refuge and noted several hybrid geese.

"While Steve Kinder and I were observing a small flock of Snow Geese beside the auto tour loop around Squaw Creek NWR we noticed that among these Snow Geese were four/five of the geese that were intermediate in size between the regular Snow Geese and the nearby Ross's Goose. Also, their bills were intermediate, showing a pinkish tinge and a reduced 'grinning patch.' It looked to us as though they were hybrids (Snow X Ross's)." — Larry Lade

The descriptions do not quite match, especially in regards to size, so it is possible that different birds were seen on the two occasions.

There have been several previous reports of this hybridization mix having occurred.