Jan 31 2008

Life Birds

Published by at 6:55 am under Migration,Water and Shore

Ross's Geese in Allegheny County (photo by Geoff Malosh)I keep a list of the birds I've seen but I'm not particularly driven by it.  Last Sunday I found out how little I consult my list when I saw a life bird and didn't realize it at first.

If I'd known that I'd never seen them before, I would have made a bigger effort to find the Ross's geese who've been visiting Allegheny County since early January.  Here they are, photographed by Geoff Malosh.

After these unusual geese spent two weeks in the North Hills, Dan Yagusic reported them roosting at Six Mile Island in the Allegheny River near Sharpsburg.  They'd made it to my home zone so I went to see them.

Ross’s geese are very beautiful - like small snow geese with stubby bills and rounded heads.  They are unusual in Pennsylvania because they nest in the arctic – primarily at Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary – and migrate to California’s Central Valley and, to a lesser extent, to Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico.

Our three geese are probably a family group who strayed too far east.  Fortunately, they found a large flock of Canada geese who know where to roost and feed so they’ve stayed safe by hanging out with them.

Compared to other geese that nest in the same arctic region, Ross’s geese are the last to arrive at the spring nesting grounds and the last to leave in the fall.  If our weather holds, we may have these special geese in Pittsburgh for a while longer.

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