Wintering geese can currently be seen and heard over the skies of southeast Texas. On these foggy nights they sound close enough to land on rooftops. Some of these avian come from as far away as the high Arctic tundra.
Timing of the annual migration differs among the various species of geese from year to year, probably due to climate changes from one year to the next. Some head south in the fall, while others stay until the northern waters begin to freeze.
The time of day that migration occurs also varies. Some prefer daytime flying and others may fly day or night.
Five specie of geese migrate to this part of Texas.
- The greater white-fronted goose is also called "speckle belly" due to the black barring on the belly of mature birds. The immature are dusky overall and are the only geese with yellow or orange feet. The term white-fronted is not a reference to the breast or belly of the bird but refers to the white on the bird’s face just above the bill. Known as "laughing geese", these birds seem to chuckle as they fly over calling "kah-lah-aluh" and "wah-wah-wah".
- Snow geese are white with black wing-tips. Flying with them will be the blue phase which is considered the same species. They are dark with a white head and neck. Snow and blue phase geese can mate and produce young of either morph. Snow geese have a black "smile patch" where the upper and lower bill meet. Their call is a low nasal pitched "whouk".
- Ross’ goose is very similar to the snow, but smaller in size and lacking the dark streak on the bill. They are seen in flocks with snows. In flight Ross’ are identified by their smaller size and faster wing beat. The call is a high pitched "keek keek keek".
- Canada geese are gray-brown with a black head and neck (stocking) that contrasts sharply with the light colored breast. A white cheek patch runs from under the chin on to the side of the head. They produce a musical honking call, "a-hink-ahonk-a-hink-ahonk.
- Cackling geese have been catorgorized as a smaller version of the Canada goose, but recent discoveries of genetic differences now considder them a full species.
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