Snow geese return for the winter

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Snow geese return for the winterAmong the early heralds for the holiday season in the Indian Wells Valley are the thousands of geese that spend their winters with us.

According to Dan Burnett of Kerncrest Audubon, the visiting flocks are collectively referred to as “snow geese” by most residents. “But we also see, in smaller numbers, greater white-fronted geese, Canada geese and the Ross’ geese — which look very similar to the snow geese, only smaller.”

Although the flock has gathered in numbers over the last couple of weeks, Burnett said that the first of the geese arrived in October.

“We have maybe 1,500 or 1,600 right now,” he said. That count ticks up toward 2,000 as Christmas approaches. “The most we’ve ever seen was back in 2012, when [Audubon Society volunteers tallied] 2,600 at the Christmas bird count.”

Burnett said that the birds migrate south from the Arctic Circle, where they breed during the spring and summer months. “They are great flyers, and they can fly up to 500-600 miles per day. So it doesn’t take long for them to get here.”

They typically stop at places with large bodies of water and plenty of feed.

“They often stay at the sewer plant at night, so the predators can’t get to them, then they spend their days at the golf course or the local parks,” said Burnett.

“They have a protrusion on their bills that helps them to eat fresh grass, and of course they leave their ‘goose grease’ wherever they spend time.”

The ripped-up sod and the mess left behind makes them unpopular with golfers, but they remain mighty photogenic subjects for many local shutter bugs.

“Their numbers have increased greatly in the last several decades, and I’m not entirely sure why,” said Burnett.

Residents should expect the geese to hang around until March, when they return to their breeding ground.

Story First Published: 2017-11-22