Duck-like Birds - Geese and Swans

Geese and swans occur in habitats dictated by their feeding habits. Swans generally feed in upland areas, and geese prefer to feed in aquatic environments. Geese and swans are large birds that must run on the waters surface before taking off. Geese and swans generally mate for life, and the male and female share similar plumage characteristics. Geese and swans feed in much the same way as dabbling ducks.

The following geese and swans are found in Central Oregon:

Canada GooseGreater White-fronted GooseMute SwanRoss' GooseSnow GooseTrumpeter Swan | Tundra Swan

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) M, B

  • RANGE: Breeds from the Arctic Coast of Alaska and northern Canada east to Baffin Island, south to central California, east to western Tennessee, southern Ontario and Quebec, and Newfoundland. Winters from south-coastal and southeastern Alaska, British Columbia and southern Alberta east to the Atlantic Coast of Newfoundland, and south to Mexico, the Gulf Coast and northern Florida.
  • STATUS: Common; 11 subspecies of the Canada goose are currently recognized.
  • HABITAT: Found in a variety of habitats near water, from forested and prairie regions to tundra, breeding on swamps, marshes, meadows, rivers, banks of lakes and ponds, and on islands. Winters in tidewater areas, marshes, inland refuges, and in flooded fields.
  • SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Elevated habitat feature or artificial structures near water for nesting. . Strongest Oregon nesting habitat association along lake and pond shorelines and islands and edges of freshwater marsh.
  • NEST: Usually nests on the ground near water (generally within 150 feet), preferably on a slightly elevated site that is isolated and affords good visibility of the surrounding area. Prefers muskrat houses for nesting but will also nest on small islands lacking tall growth, haystacks, rocky cliffs, hummocks, ridges of silt, pond banks, beaver lodges, and occasionally abandoned nests of ospreys, ravens, owls, or herons. Has successfully adapted to nesting on artificial structures.
  • FOOD: Essentially a grazer, preferring young, green tender plants. Consumes various grasses and forbs, both terrestrial and aquatic. Consumes agricultural crops as primary food during migration and winter. Also consumes small amounts of insects, insect larvae, mollusks, and small crustaceans.
  • IN CENTRAL OREGON: Abundant permanent resident, increasing in winter, when more northerly nesters supplement resident flocks. Found near just about any open water, especially ponds, lakes, and reservoirs. Mirror Pond in Bend hosts a large resident population, as does Hatfield Lake. Breeding pairs hard to miss along the region's three major rivers. Commonly nests on artificial platforms over irrigation ponds and reservoirs and on rimrock. Wintering populations may be found in large flocks in area agricultural fields, with a combined five-year average of over 6,000 individuals tallied on the region's Christmas Bird Counts. Wintering birds usually arrive October-November and depart in April. Nesting occurs early in the region, with the earliest confirmation date of 31 March, but most fledglings observed mid-May through late-June; fledglings also observed as late as early August. Resident and most wintering birds represent the "Western" subspecies, although individuals of the "Cackling," "Taverner's," and "Lesser" subspecies may be seen among flocks of Westerns, especially in migration.
  • REFERENCES: Adamus et al. 2001, Bellrose 1976, Hansen and Nelson 1964, Marshall et al. 2003, Miller 1999, NAS 2004, Shunk 2004, Terres 1980, VanWormer 1968.

Top of page

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) M

  • RANGE: Breeds from northern Alaska south to Bristol Bay and Cook Inlet, and east across northern Yukon, northern Mackenzie and southern Victoria Island to northern Keewatin. Winters from southern British Columbia south along the coastal states; on the Gulf Coast from Texas and Louisiana south to Mexico; and rarely in the lower Mississippi Valley from Missouri southward.
  • STATUS: Common throughout range.
  • HABITAT: Inhabits the borders of shallow marshes and lakes, riverbanks and islands, deltas, dry knolls, and hills near rivers and ponds in Arctic tundra. Generally found in areas characterized by dwarf birch, willows, bilberries, crowberries, Labrador tea, cassiope, raspberries, dryas, sedges, horsetails, cottongrasses, bluegrass, fescue, arctic grass, sphagnum moss in depressions, and reindeer moss and cetaria on drier sites. Rests on shallow ponds and sloughs in marshes. Winters in sheltered inland and coastal marshes and on open terrain and pasturelands with small bodies of water.
  • SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Wetlands in Arctic tundra.
  • NEST: Typically nests in depressions on the ground in tall grass bordering tidal sloughs or in sedge marshes, usually within 300 feet of water, or on hummocks along rivers, streams, and lakes. Generally does not nest in colonies but may be found in loose colonies of 15 to 20 pairs in favored locations.
  • FOOD: Primarily grazes on marsh grasses, freshly sprouted grain in fields, and fresh growth in burned-over pastures. Sometimes feeds heavily on aquatic plants and in grain fields after harvest. In the Arctic, consumes tundra plants, aquatic insects and their larvae, and berries..
  • IN CENTRAL OREGON: Rare winter resident and spring migrant and uncommon fall migrant. Fall birds arrive as early as late August but usually not until October, with as many as 50 individuals remaining through the winter. Spring migrants recorded as late as May 7, but most depart the region by mid-April. Usually found in small groups at area lakes, golf course ponds and reservoirs, often loosely associating with flocks of Canada Geese, but may occasionally be seen singly in such flocks. Likely haunts include Tumalo Reservoir, Hatfield Lake, and Sunriver.
  • REFERENCES: Bellrose 1976, Dzubin et al. 1964, Johnsgard 1975b, Miller 1999, NAS 2004, Pough 1951, Shunk 2004, Terres 1980.

Top of page

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) Y

  • RANGE: Native to Eurasia. Breeds in the British Isles, NC Europe and NC Asia. Winters as far south as N Africa, the Near East, and to NW India and Korea. Successfully introduced in N America, where it is a widespread species. Common breeding species and permanent resident in various locations throughout Michigan and along Mid-Atlantic Coast, with many smaller populations throughout the US at local parks.
  • STATUS: Introduced in the United States for ornamental purposes starting in the mid-1800s. Intentional releases and accidental escape resulted in a rapidly expanding population along the northeastern Atlantic Coast of the United States. By the mid-1900s, Mute Swans were recorded on the lower Great Lakes. Following the first breeding record of feral Mute Swans in southern Ontario in 1958, Mute Swans expanded their range throughout much of the lower Great Lakes by the mid-1960s and 1970s and the population has been expanding ever since. Several aspects of their ecology suggest that Mute Swans could be a particularly serious problem for native wildlife. Mute Swans are extremely aggressive and occupy and defend large parcels of wetland habitat during nesting, brood rearing and foraging. Not only can they attack and displace native waterfowl from breeding and staging habitats, they have also been reported to kill adult and juvenile ducks, geese and other wetland dependant birds.
  • HABITAT: In Europe, the most common swans in the wild, in parks or on country estates. In winter, they are more common on marine waters. Live in well-sheltered bays, open marshes, lakes, and ponds.
  • SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Requires habitat with plentiful aquatic vegetation and large areas of shallow water.
  • NEST: Nest sites are selected in March or early April. Either builds a nest from scratch, or uses a previously constructed mound, such as a muskrat house. The nest is large, made of aquatic vegetation, and lined with feathers and down. It is built well above the normal water level in swampy places near a pond or lake.
  • FOOD: Aquatic vegetation and small percentages of aquatic insects, fish, and frogs. Feeds by plunging head and neck below the water's surface. In its native range, feeds in deeper waters than the ducks and other waterfowl that share its habitat, and thus does not compete with them for food. Rather, food may be made more readily available to other birds by swans because parts of the plants they consume float to the surface while the swans are feeding.
  • IN CENTRAL OREGON: First introductions in Oregon may have been in 1921 in Ashland, with the first Central Oregon introductions along the Deschutes River in Bend in the 1940s. The Bend population represents the only recent breeding in Oregon where numbers increased from four to 56 individuals between 1985 and 1995. Population controls began in 1995 so that as of June 2002 two infertile pairs and three unpaired individuals remained. Birds are most easily seen on Mirror Pond in downtown Bend.
  • REFERENCES: Ivory 2001, LPBO 2004, Marshall et al. 2003, NNE 2001-2003, Shunk 2004.

Top of page

Ross' Goose (Chen rossii) M

  • RANGE: Breeds primarily in the Queen Maud Gulf area of northern Mackenzie and northwestern Keewatin, but also on southern Southhampton Island and along the west coast of Hudson Bay south to Cape Churchill. Winters almost exclusively in the Central Valley of California and the Salton Sea; also in small numbers along the Rio Grande, New Mexico, and Gulf Coast of Texas.
  • STATUS: Rare a few decades ago, now quite abundant in recent years.
  • HABITAT: Inhabits island-studded lakes and deltas of low tundra country. Prefers islands that rise 10 to 20 feet above water level, are covered with rocks and shrubs interspersed with areas of open, level ground, and are surrounded by shallow water (under 5 to 6 feet deep) extensive enough to discourage predators from swimming across. During winter, found on freshwater and brackish marshes and on wet prairies, often in association with the snow goose.
  • SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Islands in Arctic tundra lakes.
  • NEST: Nests on the ground in loose colonies, preferably on islands in mixed habitats of dwarf birch and rocks, or occasionally along river or lake shores if islands are unavailable.
  • FOOD: Eats grain and new green growth of grasslands and grain fields.
  • IN CENTRAL OREGON: Very rare spring and fall migrant in the region, usually reported as single individuals among flocks of Canada Geese at large water bodies, and occasionally in agricultural fields. Spring records from late April to mid-May, with fall birds reported in early November.
  • REFERENCES: Barry 1964, Bellrose in Farrand 1983a, Johnsgard 1975b, Miller 1999, Ryder 1967, Shunk 2004, Terres 1980.

Top of page

Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) M

  • RANGE: Breeds from northern Alaska east along the Arctic Coast and islands of Canada to Baffin Island, south to Southhampton Island and along both coasts of Hudson Bay to the head of James Bay. Winters from the Puget Sound of British Columbia and Washington south to the interior valleys of California and Mexico; in southern New Mexico; from Kansas and Missouri south to the Gulf Coast; and along the Atlantic Coast from New York to Florida. During migration, found on large staging areas in the Dakotas, Minnesota, lowa, and Nebraska.
  • There are two races of the snow goose, the "lesser" and the "greater." The lesser snow goose has two color phases-a dark phase, or blue goose, and a white phase-while the greater is believed to only have a white phase, and generally breeds farther north than the lesser.
  • STATUS: Locally abundant.
  • HABITAT: Inhabits islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago or is found within 5 miles of salt water on flat tundra of marsh grasses and sedges, in limestone basins, on islands of river deltas, or on plains usually drained by large rivers that open early in the season. During winter, uses both freshwater and saltwater marshes and wet prairies.
  • SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Wetlands on arctic tundra.
  • NEST: Nests in a shallow depression on the ground in large, loose colonies, on dry sites, primarily in unspoiled, primitive areas. Nests, well concealed by tundra grasses and sedges, as close as 15 to 20 feet from each other on flat land.
  • FOOD: Feeds by browsing in cultivated fields on winter wheat, in pastures on sprouting grasses, or on waste grain in stubble fields, also by digging out bulbous roots and soft parts of sedges, rushes, marsh grasses, and aquatic plants.
  • IN CENTRAL OREGON: Rare to uncommon spring and fall migrant and very rare winter resident. Flocks reported almost annually migrating overhead in fall; small groups or single individuals found associating with Canada Geese at area lakes, ponds, golf courses, or agricultural fields. Spring passage usually early February to early April, with fall migrants reported early October through late December. Handful of records from Christmas Bird Counts of probable overwintering birds.
  • REFERENCES: Bellrose in Farrand 1983a, Cooch 1964, Lemieux 1959, Miller 1999, NAS 2004, Shunk 2004, Terres 1980, Verner and Boss 1980.

Top of page

Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) M

  • RANGE: Breeds locally throughout Alaska and from southern British Columbia and southwestern Saskatchewan south to southeastern Oregon, eastern Idaho and northwestern Wyoming. Was introduced and is now established at Ruby Lake in Nevada and in southwestern South Dakota. Winters from southern Alaska, western British Columbia, southern Alberta (rarely) and Montana south to northern (casually southern) California, occasionally to Utah, New Mexico, and eastern Colorado.
  • STATUS: Once near extinction, the population has increased to more than 4,000 birds.
  • HABITAT:Typically found in open boreal forest; prefers large shallow, fertile marshes or lakes (up to 4 feet deep) with a profusion of submerged and emergent aquatic plants, and generally untimbered but well-vegetated shorelines. During winter, prefers shallow lakes, streams, and ponds with open water that are bordered by some level and open terrain.
  • SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Shallow, sheltered waters that do not have a fluctuating water level, and some margins of emergent vegetation. Strongest Oregon nesting habitat association along lake and pond shorelines and islands and edges of freshwater marsh.
  • NEST: Nests on the ground on any site above the general level of the marsh terrain, preferably on muskrat houses surrounded by water 1 to 3 feet deep. Also nests on shore in sedges, bulrushes, cattails, rushes, or in horsetail. Has a nesting territory that ranges from 70 acres along irregular shorelines to 150 acres along straight shorelines.
  • FOOD: Feeds primarily in shallow waters of lakes or open marsh, digging up roots and tubers of aquatic plants, or snapping off plant parts with bill; rarely feeds on land. Eats a variety of marsh and aquatic plants.
  • IN CENTRAL OREGON: Rare wintering species and very rare permanent resident in the region. Transient records between early November and early May from area reservoirs such as Haystack, Barnes Butte, and Crane Prairie reservoirs, birds usually associating with Tundra Swans. Population at Malheur national Wildlife Refuge represents most of the resident birds in the state, however, breeding has been confirmed on private land in central Crook County among birds presumed to wild individuals. Two additional confirmed breeding records in central Klamath County.
  • REFERENCES: Adamus et al. 2001, Banko 1960, Bellrose 1976, Johnsgard 1975b, Marshall et al. 2003, Miller 1999, Terres 1980, Van Wormer 1972.

Top of page

Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus) M

  • RANGE: Breeds from northwestern Alaska south to St. Lawrence Island and the Alaska Peninsula, and east near the Arctic Coast of Baffin Island, thence south around Hudson Bay to Churchill and the Belcher Islands. Winters mainly near coast from southern Alaska through British Columbia to Pacific states and northern Baja California (casual); also in southern Great Basin to northern New Mexico; and in mid-Atlantic states, rarely on Gulf Coast.
  • STATUS: The most common and widespread swan in North America.
  • HABITAT: Inhabits lakes, ponds, sluggish streams, and occasionally swamp bogs on open tundra while breeding; may be found along coastal estuaries when not breeding. During winter, primarily found on sizeable reservoirs; shallow, productive lakes of the interior; other sheltered freshwater habitats; or on coastal bays and estuaries.
  • SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Open water or wetlands on Arctic tundra.
  • NEST: Builds nests on the ground along water's edge, on hummocks in marshes or tidal meadows, or on low hills up to one-half mile from water; seems to prefer to nest on small islands in shallow tundra pools. Rarely nests on level stretches in marsh or meadow areas.
  • FOOD: Feeds by plunging head under water and uprooting aquatic vegetation, preferably in shallow water, and occasionally by tipping up in deeper water, or by grazing in fields. Most commonly eats aquatic plants, but also eats waste corn, soybeans, shoots of winter wheat, grasses, sedges, and thin-shelled mollusks.
  • IN CENTRAL OREGON: Uncommon fall and spring migrant throughout the region and rare winter resident wherever unfrozen water remains. Typically found on large lakes and reservoirs, such as Wickiup, Haystack, and Ochoco reservoirs, but occasionally found on large golf course ponds and small lakes such as Barnes Butte and Watson reservoirs. Fall migrants begin arriving mid-October with transients remaining through mid-December. Spring migrants return mid-February and the species departs the region by early May.
  • REFERENCES: Bellrose 1976, Marshall et al. 2003, Miller 1999, Shunk 2004, Terres 1980, Tohish in Farrand 1983a, Verner and Boss 1980, USDA 1981.

Top of page