As the cold and rainy season starts to arrive, many of us dream about heading south in search of sun and sand. For many migratory bird species, of course, this dream is a reality, but it takes a lot of hard work and long-distance flying to safely arrive at their warm wintering grounds.
While some birds start their voyage south from coastal B.C., for others this is a relatively warm and fertile stopping point on a longer migratory journey. Snow Geese, for example, spend their summers far to the north in Alaska and along the Arctic coast. They then make their way down to Oregon, California, Arizona, and Mexico for the winter months, with a small population remaining to brave the winter weather in protected estuaries in southern B.C.
One young Snow Goose arrived this season from the far north in poor condition, likely having used up the bulk of his resources on his flight south. Found lingering for several days on Magic Lake on Pender Island, his flock had continued on their journey and he seemed unable to keep up. The Snow Goose was rescued by Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre – based on nearby Salt Spring Island – and transferred to BC SPCA Wild ARC for treatment. He arrived alert but quite thin, and with a high parasite load that suggested he was having a tough time on his journey down the coast.
Snow Geese tend to depart from the Arctic region near the end of August, arriving in southern B.C. between the middle and end of October. They prefer freshwater and brackish marshes along the coast, with the Fraser River delta being an habitual stopping point for large flocks. They bulk up on the leaves, stems, and roots of marsh plants – with the occasional foray into turned-over farmers’ fields to root through the remainders of the summer season – to help give them enough energy for the rest of their journey. They migrate in large flocks of up to 1,000 birds, and fly during both day and night to reach their next stopping point.
This young Snow Goose will spend time in one of Wild ARC’s outdoor Pool Pen enclosures, where he will be treated for some of his parasites and provided with nutritious food so he can bulk up to a healthy weight. The centre will keep track of where groups of Snow Geese are landing in the area, and when this goose is ready to continue his journey, he will be released into a new flock.
The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.