This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about Geese in Alaska from the types to their biology, behavior, and ecology. We will cover topics such as where to find them, what they eat, and how to identify different species. So if you’re interested in learning more about all the different geese in Alaska, read on!
Do geese live in Alaska?
There are six different species of North American geese that can be found in the state: Canada goose, white-fronted goose, brant, snow goose (or lesser snow goose), cackling goose and the emperor goose, according to the state department. Each species has a different appearance and range, but all can be found in Alaska.
Brant (Branta bernicla)
The black brant is the smallest and darkest member of the ” true geese ” (i.e., those belonging to the genus Branta ), with a body length of 50–60 cm (20–24 in). It has a short, stout bill and legs, and is slightly smaller than the Canada goose. The black brant is a gregarious bird, forming large flocks outside the breeding season. It feeds on grasses and other aquatic plants, and will uproot crops if its numbers are high enough.
- Scientific Name: Branta bernicla
- Height: 55–66 cm (22–26 in)
- Wingspan: 106–121 cm (42–48 in)
- Weight: 0.88–2.2 kg (1.9–4.9 lb)
The Brant is similar to the Canada Goose with a black head and neck with a white neck collar, but is smaller with a shorter neck, with dark bellies. There are several subspecies which have different coloration on the bellies and sides, known tas the Black Brant or the Pacific Brant, the Pale-bellied Brant or Atlantic Brant and the dark bellied brant breeds of Europe.
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Brant Habitat & Range
The brant goose is a migratory bird, wintering in southern Europe, Africa, and western Asia. It is an occasional vagrant to North America, where it is most often seen in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States.
It can be found in North America and spends most of its time in coastal waters. Brant migrate from their wintering grounds back to their breeding grounds each year.
Most brant geese feed only on a single species of seagrass, known as eelgrass. They also eat sea lettuce, but their primary food source is eelgrass. They prefer eating at night because it’s easier to spot prey when it’s dark out (they have poor eyesight). Brant prefers living near bodies of water such as lakes or oceans because they need water to survive – without it, they would die within days.
Females lay 3-5 eggs in a nest of moss and down.
Brant in Alaska
When it’s time to nest, Pacific brant fly south in colonies along the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Coast. These birds also spread out across other areas like Alaska and Canada while they’re here for six – nine weeks during fall season!
Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)
The Greater White-fronted goose is named after the white patch at the top of its bill. These are medium-sized geese. It is named for the patch of white feathers bordering the base of its bill. In fact, albifrons comes from the Latin albus “white” and frons “forehead”.
- Scientific Name: Anser albifrons
- Height: 64–81 cm (25–32 in)
- Wingspan: 130–165 cm (51–65 in)
- Weight: 1.93–3.31 kg (4 lb 4 oz – 7 lb 5 oz)
Greater White-fronted Goose Description
The Greater White-fronted Goose is a dusky-brown goose with a long, thin neck and a small bill. It is characterized by its white belly and white patch on its face with orange legs. The bill is pinkish or orange with a white tip.
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Greater White-fronted Goose Habitat & Range
The Greater White-fronted Goose is native to the northern hemisphere in North America and Eurasia. They are found in open areas such as grasslands, wetlands, taiga, arctic tundra, and alpine meadows, pond edges and lakeshores during the summer months and migrate south for the winter months. They prefer to nest on tundra or lakeshores but will nest on rocky beaches if necessary.
The Greater White-fronted Goose can be found in the Arctic tundra of North America, Europe, and Asia. They are migratory birds that breed in Canada, the United States, Iceland, and Greenland. In the winter they migrate south to Northern Africa and southern Europe.
Greater White-fronted Goose Diet
They prefer grassy areas with some water nearby for food sources but can also adapt to other habitats. They also feed on plants such as sedges, grasses, rushes and other aquatic plants as well as insects such as beetles and spiders that live in these habitats. They also eat insects such as moths and worms as well as small frogs or fish.
Greater White-fronted Nesting
The population of Greater White-fronted Geese is estimated at around 10 million birds worldwide which makes them one of the most abundant geese species! They lay 5-6 cream colored eggs in grassy sections.
Snow Goose (Anser caerulescens)
The Snow Goose is one of the most abundant geese in North America, and has been hunted heavily for its meat by humans for centuries; its population has declined significantly since the 1960s due to hunting pressure and habitat loss caused by human activity. These birds are also known to migrate long distances, often flying over 2000 miles in a single journey! They are very social animals, and can be found in flocks of thousands during migration season.
- Scientific Name: Anser caerulescens
- Height: 64 to 79 cm (25 to 31 in.)
- Wingspan: 135 to 165 cm (53 to 65 in)
- Weight: 2.05 to 2.7 kg (4.5 to 6.0 lb)
Snow Goose Description
The snow goose is a large waterfowl that has white plumage with black wingtips and is a species of goose native to North America, the tundra, and grasslands. It has a black neck, white cheeks, and a pale gray belly. It also has a black bill with a yellow tip. Its feet are orange to dull greenish yellow. They are large birds, averaging between 3.2-4.9 kg and often exhibit black bars on their wings and a white patch on the rump.
Snow Goose Sound
Snow Goose Habitat & Range
These birds are capable of flying for long distances without getting rest. It is one of the few species that can fly non-stop for 3,000 miles without stopping for rest or food.
They are mostly found in the Arctic areas, including North America, Greenland and Canada, where their numbers have increased in recent years due to conservation efforts to protect them from extinction.
They migrate south during the winter months when food supplies are scarce.
Snow Goose Diet
They have been known to eat a variety of foods including seeds, roots and tubers as well as insects, snails and small fish. The Snow Goose is one of the few species of geese that have been observed using tools to help them catch prey. They have been seen using sticks or stones as weapons or shields when hunting for food!
They can also dive underwater to get food which means they don’t need to eat on land all the time like other birds do (they can just swim around until they find something they like).
Snow Goose Nesting
Snow geese are known to mate for life. A male will typically find two or three females depending on his age and experience level as a hunter-gatherer type personality. A female may lay up to 14 eggs at once but usually, only 1 or 2 survive because of predators such as other birds like raptors and even humans who hunt them down during hunting season!
Snow Geese in Alaska
Snow geese can be seen most at the Copper river delta, there are not many nesting pairs in Alaska, the few breeding birds are are on Howe Island, near Prudhoe Bay, the Spring migration starts in April, when large flocks start their journey south to their breeding grounds, often stopping off in the Matanuska valley.
The sheer volumes of Snow Geese in Alaska, is beginning to cause some issues, as they are growing with a 5-8% growth rate despite liberal hunting laws and no bag limits. This is leading to habitat degradation which will need to be addressed soon.
Emperor Goose (Anser Canagicus)
The Emperor Goose, also known as the beach goose or the painted goose, is one of the rarest geese in North America, and one that every birdwatcher hopes to see. This small and stocky goose is only found in Alaska. They are large birds with a wingspan of up to 4 feet and feed on the small plants in the mud at the edges of lakes and rivers, as well as roots and seeds.
- Scientific Name: Anser canagicus
- Height: 26–28 inches (66–71 cm) and females 25.6–27.5 inches (65–70 cm)
- Wingspan: 119 centimetres (47 in)
- Weight: Males – 2.766 kilograms (6.10 lb) and 3.129 kilograms (6.90 lb) / Females: 1.945 kilograms (4.29 lb)
Emperor Goose Description
The plumage is overall silvery gray, with a black and white margins making it look scaled. With a white head (which can become rust colored in the summer months), it has a black throat and its bill is small and pinkk, and the legs are orange. The sexes are similar, but juveniles have a duller plumage being gray all over.
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Emperor Goose Habitat & Range
They are migratory birds, which means they travel long distances to breed and then return to the same location in the winter. Emperor geese migrate from Alaska to Japan and the western Aleutian Islands in the Alaskan Peninsula.
In the winter, emperor geese live in Alaska and winter in Alaska, Japan and the western Aleutian Islands of the Alaskan Peninsula. In the summer, they stay in Alaska.
Emperor Goose Diet
Emperor geese need large tracts of land with patchy vegetation, water, and ample food to survive. Emperor geese use their bills to catch fish (and occasionally small mammals) while swimming in the water or flying over it. They thrive in wetland habitats because they provide the birds with food and protection from predators such as bears and wolves.
Emperor Goose Nesting
The female emperor goose lays 3-8 eggs per season in a nest made from grasses and plant material. She does the majority of incubation of the eggs, which take about 30 days to hatch. The male takes on a more active role in rearing his offspring after they’ve hatched—he helps keep predators away, insulates them against heat loss, and protects them from harm by sheltering them under his wings or body when necessary.
Emperor Geese nest in Alaska in a small area along the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta coast or in early spring on Kodiak Island. They like the rocky beaches and brackish wetlands where they can feed on eelgrass and sea lettuce.
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
The Canada goose is the most common goose species in North America. These birds are easily recognizable thanks to their black heads and necks, white chins, and brown bodies.
- Scientific Name: Branta canadensis
- Height: 75 to 110 cm (30 to 43 in)
- Wingspan: 127–185 cm (50–73 in)
- Weight: Usual: 2.6–6.5 kg (5.7–14.3 lb); Average: 3.9 kg (8.6 lb)
Canada Goose Description
Canada goose is a large water bird that has a black head and neck, white cheeks, and a brownish-gray body. They have webbed feet and can be seen on lakes, ponds, and rivers throughout the United States in summer.
Canada Goose Sound
Canada Goose Habitat & Range
Their habitat includes grasslands, marshes, open woodland areas, and agricultural fields including cornfields where they eat the seeds on the ground.
They are often found near lakes, ponds, rivers, marshes, and open fields where they feed on grasses, aquatic plants, small animals, insects, and grain crops.
Canada Goose Diet
Canada geese are popular game birds; they are also used for their feathers and leather. Their diet consists mainly of plant material including grasses and grains, but occasionally insect larvae and worms.
Canada Goose Nesting
Canada geese typically mate for life and often return to the same nesting site year after year. These birds build their nests on the ground, near water sources such as lakes or ponds.
During the nesting season, female Canada geese will lay between three and eight eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the goslings will stay with their parents until they are ready to migrate in the autumn.
A sub species of the Canada goose is the Giant Canada Goose. The Canada Geese have very high resident flocks in Alaska, and the Alaska department of Fish and Game, in partnership with the US wildlife service have worked hard to reduce their numbers.
Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)
Once considered part of the Canada Goose species, this has now been classified as a distinct species in its own right. It’s high pitched voice distinguishes it from the Canada goose which has a much lower pitched honk.
- Scientific Name: Branta hutchinsii
- Height: 24.8–25.6 in (63–65 cm)
- Wingspan: 43 inches
- Weight: 3.5 lbs
Cackling Goose Description
Very similar to the Canada Goose, but they have rounder heads and shorter bills. On the dark coast the birds are darker than those found on the east coast. The head is black with a white chin or neck strap, with a greyish brown body and black legs, feet and bill.
Listen to Cackling Goose
Cackling Goose Habitat and Range
The Cackling Goose’s breeding habitat is wet meadows near lakes or ponds where they feed on grasses, sedges, and other plants. They nest on the ground in areas that are often flooded by water during the spring months.
In the late summer months when the breeding season has ended, cackling geese will migrate southward towards warmer climates in order to escape cold weather conditions found further north.
Cackling Goose Diet
Cackling Geese are omnivores which means they eat both plants as well as seeds, roots, small animals such as insects or worms, and grasses during the summer months, and crustaceans such as clams or snails. However, their main source of food comes from grazing on grasses along marshes or fields which can be found near large bodies of water such as lakes or rivers.
Cackling Goose Nesting
Only females incubate the eggs (laying between 2-8) and the goslings leave the nest within 24 hours, and fledge at 6 weeks, though they stay with the family for migration.
Take Away on Alaskan Geese
There is a healthy population of Geese and other waterfowl in Alaska, however both the snow Goose and Canada goose populations are causing some habitat issues. Even with no bag limits for hunters, these resident populations are growing in many areas.
Jim Addison is an avid bird watcher and has been obsessed with the activity since he was a young boy.
He has traveled all over North America in search of new and interesting species to observe, and his detailed knowledge of the subject makes him a sought-after expert on the topic.