Snow Goose vs. Ross's Goose

Identification Keys and Tips

South Dakota Birds and Birding

Snow Goose   Ross's Goose
Chen caerulescens   Chen rossii

Snow Goose - Chen caerulescens

 

Ross's Goose - Chen rossii

While both the Snow Goose and the Ross's Goose can have a dark and a white phase, the dark phase is very rare in the Ross's Goose.  Both a white and a dark phase Snow Goose are shown above, while a white-phase Ross's Goose is shown. 

In migration through the state, both species can be found intermingled, although the Snow Goose is far more common.  If seen together, size is often quite apparent, but size can be difficult to judge in isolation.  There are some distinct differences in bill characteristics that make the distinction fairly easy.  However, one more factor to consider is the possibility of hybrid Snow x Ross's Goose, which will have intermediate characteristics of both species.
Length: 28-32 inches   Length: 22-24 inches
Wingspan: 54 inches Wingspan: 45 inches
Bill: Longer bill than Ross's Goose, with distinctive dark "grinning patch" Bill: Short, triangular bill, much stubbier in appearance than Snow Goose, and lacking the obvious "grinning patch" of the Snow Goose.  Bill is also often bluish at the base (see photo above).
Head Shape: Longer, wedge-shaped head. Head Shape: Short, rounded head.
South Dakota Status: Very common migrant in South Dakota. South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant, usually found as scattered small groups within larger Snow Geese flocks.

 

Snow Goose

 

Ross's Goose

Additional Photos Additional Photos
Snow Goose - Chen caerulescens Snow Goose - Chen caerulescens Snow Goose - Chen caerulescens   Ross's Goose - Chen rossii Ross's Goose - Chen rossii  
Snow Goose - Chen caerulescens Snow Goose - Chen caerulescens Snow Goose - Chen caerulescens        

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