White Geese - genus or subgenus Chen

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Snow Geese in Flight

Emperior GeeseThe white geese are a small group of waterfowl which are united in the genus or subgenus Chen, in the true geese and swan subfamily Anserinae. They breed on subarctic areas of North America and around the Bering Strait, migrating south in winter.

Many authorities place these species in the grey goose genus Anser. Indeed, Chen and Anser are anatomically indistinguishable. However, external morphology, biogeography, and molecular data suggest that the white geese are indeed an evolutionary lineage distinct from the grey geese - from which they split off fairly recently, essentially replacing them in North America. The AOU recognizes this genus as distinct; most other authorities today consider it a subgenus of Anser.


Description

Like grey but unlike the Branta black geese, their feet and legs are colored in reddish hues. The bill is also reddish in these birds as in most grey geese, except in adult males of Ross's Goose which have a blue-black grainy cere. The wingtips are black, as in all true geese, whereas the head is always white without any markings or pattern in adult birds of this genus, which distinguishes them from all other true geese except feral domesticated geese. The rest of the plumage is either white all over, or colored in various dark bluish-grey hues; the latter birds, uniquely among true geese, do not have white uppertail and undertail coverts, though the tail itself may be white.

White-phase snow geese of both species can be told apart from feral geese best by the more slender, elegant neck, which is thick-set in domestic geese; these also have a generally heavier habitus and often lack black wingtips.


Ross's GooseSpecies

The supposed fossil dwarf snow goose Chen pressa is now placed in Anser (Brodkorb, 1964).


References

  • Brodkorb, Pierce (1964): Catalogue of Fossil Birds: Part 2 (Anseriformes through Galliformes). Bulletin of the Florida State Museum 8(3): 195-335. PDF or JPEG fulltext
  • Carboneras, Carles (1992): Family Anatidae (Ducks, Geese and Swans). In: del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew and Sargatal, Jordi (editors): Handbook of Birds of the World, Volume 1: Ostrich to Ducks: 536-629. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-10-5

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Diet / Feeding:

Ducks and geese generally feed on larvae and pupae usually found under rocks, aquatic animals, plant material, seeds, small fish, snails and crabs.

Feeding Ducks and Geese ...

We all enjoy waterfowl and many of us offer them food to encourage them to come over and stay around - and it works! Who doesn't like an easy meal!

However, the foods that we traditionally feed them at local ponds are utterly unsuitable for them and are likely to cause health problems down the road. Also, there may be local laws against feeding this species of bird - so it's best to check on that rather than facing consequences at a later stage.

Please note that feeding ducks and geese makes them dependent on humans for food, which can result in starvation and possibly death when those feedings stop. If you decide to feed them, please limit the quantity to make sure that they maintain their natural ability to forage for food themselves - providing, of course, that natural food sources are available.




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