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Identifying Snow Goose and Ross’s Goose

Snow Goose, white morph adult. December in Socorro County, New Mexico. Photo by Brian E. Small
Snow Goose, white morph adult. December in Socorro County, New Mexico. Photo by Brian E. Small

Everything in nature has multiple connections, so in studying bird ID, we don’t just look at the physical field marks of the bird in isolation. We have to think about habitat, behavior, total distribution, and many other factors.

The Snow Goose provides a perfect example. The challenge of identifying this species has changed in intriguing ways during recent decades. It’s not that the bird looks different today; the change is driven by a huge population increase and range expansion of white geese in general.

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Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman is an expert birder and naturalist, a talented artist and photographer, a world traveler, and the author of many books about birds and other wildlife. His column “ID Tips” appears in every issue of BirdWatching. Kenn is also a field editor for Audubon Magazine and a contributor to Birds and Blooms. His work first appeared in Birder’s World (now BirdWatching) in April 1988. Visit his website, Kaufman Field Guides.

Kenn Kaufman on social media

Brian E. Small

Brian E. Small

Brian Small is a Los Angeles-based bird and nature photographer whose photos appear in the “ID Tips” column in every issue of BirdWatching. His work has been published in Time, The New York Times, Audubon, Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation, and many other publications. His photos also illustrate many field guides, including Kenn Kaufman’s Birds of North America, a series of state bird identification guides published with the American Birding Association, and his own Eastern and Western photographic field guides to the birds of North America published in 2009 with author Paul Sterry and Princeton University Press.

Brian E. Small on social media