Snow geese have arrived. I spotted the first flock of the season this past Thursday as they joined a sizable flock of Canada geese in a cornfield at the junction of S. Church St. and Ruchsville Road in Egypt.
These all white geese make a harvested cornfield look like a coating of snow covered a portion of a field. It’s possible these early arrivals put down on a mine hole on the outskirts of Northampton, a place they seem to favor every year they arrive here from the arctic tundra.
There are a few things you may not know about these overwintering birds as they arrive in Pennsylvania annually around this time of year where early snowfalls in Canada and the tundra push them down to our state and beyond.
For starters, snow geese are good swimmers but they normally don’t dive to find food. But they can submerge to evade predators. They walk readily on land and can run swiftly. They sleep floating on the water, or on land, sitting down or standing on one leg.
As strong fliers, snow geese can reach air speeds of 50 miles per hour. And they’re extremely vocal giving off a whouk or kowk sound repeatedly while in flight and on the ground. Their sound when flying differs from Canada geese somewhat and may take on the sound of a barking dog.
When feeding, snow geese make quieter gah notes while parent birds utter uh-uh-uh sounds to their goslings. They feed on aquatic grasses, sedges, berries, corn, wheat, barley and other grains gleaned from harvested fields, pastures and leafy stems of crops such as winter wheat where they can decimate a complete newly planted field in a day or two.
In winter, snows feed from two to seven hours a day. In spring, when building up fat reserves for their migration trip back to the arctic tundra, they may feed more than 12 hours a day.
Males and females mate for life but will find a new mate if theirs is lost or dies. Most snows choose mates having the same color as the family in which they themselves were reared. Individuals pair up during their second winter or their second northward migration, when they’re almost two years old. Generally, they first breed successfully at age three.
During migration, snow geese fly both day and night and usually migrate along fairly narrow corridors. They take advantage of winds, good visibility and periods of no precipitation and can be seen in long diagonal lines and V-formations reaching altitudes of up to 7,500 feet.
Snow geese can live for more than 26 years and can perish from avian cholera, hitting power lines in flight, hunting, predation by coyotes, foxes and eagles.
As winter progresses, expect to see more snow geese feeding in harvested corn and newly planted winter wheat fields. Hunting them takes patience, work and large amounts of decoys.
POST CHRISTMAS HUNTING SEASONS
By traditions, deer hunting season re-opens for antlered and antlerless deer on Dec. 27- Jan. 17 for flintlock hunters. In WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, the season runs from Dec. 27-Jan. 29. The extended firearms season for antlerless only runs from Dec. 27-Jan. 29 in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D.
There’s also the late elk season running from Jan. 1-8, 2022 and small game that includes squirrels, pheasant, rabbits, quail from Dec. 27-Feb. 28. Because of their limited numbers, a short snowshoe hare season runs Dec. 27-Jan. 1.
During these times, hunters will have the woodlands almost to themselves so it’s
an opportune time to be afield instead of watching re-runs on TV.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.