Earlier this week Linda Scrima located a diminutive white goose which was a possible candidate for a ROSS’S GOOSE in the black dirt. Unfortunately she only got a brief look and her photos were inconclusive. The bird was relocated this afternoon and Bruce Nott and I were able to view it and document it as well. Unfortunately, while I was there the bird was distant and being viewed through trees, but I think I was able to get some useful pics. Bruce had the bird a little closer later in the day.
In the field, I felt the bird had two field marks which I felt were not indicative of Ross’s. The first was my impression of the size of the bird; it’s hard to get a sense of the size without any Snow Geese present, but I just would have expected it to be a little more remarkably smaller than the nearby Canada Geese. The second was the length of the bill. It was short, but maybe just a little longer than what you would expect in a Ross’s. In support of it being a Ross’s, in the scope I could see that there was no obvious “grin patch” and feathering at the base of the bill appeared straight.
When I got home, I quickly edited some of my photos and sent them out for opinions. The longer I looked at my photos, the more I was leaning towards Ross’s Goose. I found photos online with Canadas where the Ross’s size seemed similar to my photos. I saw documentation of a certain amount of variability in Ross’s (see here). I was starting to get excited. BUT, when Bruce forwarded his photos of the bird from a much closer distance, that changed things. With the additional documentation, consensus shifted towards the dirty “H” word: Hybrid. So, ultimately (but not definitively), this bird is likely a Snow Goose x Ross’s Goose hybrid, still cool to see but not a countable bird. If anyone reading this has any additional thoughts, please comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.