12 November 2012

An exceptional Canadian goose

It's not every day we receive a report of a BTO-ringed bird in Canada, so when we recently received details of a goose shot in Quebec, interest was piqued. 1390992 was also carrying a neck collar and darvic ring (X2A) when shot in October 2012 at Gaspesie.

The bird, a Greenland White-fronted Goose, was originally ringed in Wexford, Ireland, in March 2012 and is only the second recovery of the species in the Americas. The first (colour-ringed 8MF)was also from Wexford, resighted in winter 1990/91 in Pennsylvania before returning to Wexford in subsequent winters. These two birds are also the only records of ringed Greenland White-fronted Geese in North America since the work of Finn Salomonsen in the 1940s and 1950s.

View Canadian goose in a larger map

Recoveies of Greenland White-fronted Geese are more likely to come from Iceland and, not surprisingly, Greenland - see the online ringing report for further details.

Tony Fox continues the story:

The Greenland race of Greater White-fronted Goose was considered very rare in the Eastern United States before 1980, with the few records of any Greater White-fronted Geese coming from Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York (mostly Long Island) and Connecticut. Interestingly, recent ringing of Canada Geese in west Greenland using yellow collars has shown these states to be the winter quarters for these geese which share the summer breeding areas with Greenland White-fronted Geese that normally winter exclusively in Ireland and Britain. Greater White-fronted Geese were also surprisingly rare in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada.

However, in recent years, numbers have increased and since around 1995, the species has been reported annually from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, as well as the coastal states of eastern USA. It is really difficult to judge if this is just the result of more observers, better equipped with better optics and improved knowledge, or due to a genuine increase in these geese occurring in the region, but certainly between 1979 and 2004 there were some 73 reports of Greenland White-fronted Geese in North American Birds and the frequency of reporting has likely increased since that time. It seems likely that Greenland White-fronted Geese have always wandered down into North America, since there were ringing recoveries of individuals marked in west Greenland recovered in Quebec 12 October 1946, the Magdalene Islands, Quebec 1 October 1959 and in New Brunswick 22 October 1966, despite the relatively low numbers of individuals marked in the population during this period.

Since 1979, over 2600 Greenland White-fronted Geese have been marked in Ireland, Britain, Iceland and Greenland, yet only one has ever been resighted in North America: 8MF was ringed at Wexford in SE Ireland in winter 1989/90 but wintered in Pennsylvania in 1990/91 but returned to winter at Wexford in 1991/92 and 1992/93. The recovery of X2A, ringed at Wexford in winter 2011/12, from Gaspesie on the Quebec southern shore of the opening to the St Lawrence Seaway is thus an exciting yet rare record of the subspecies from the New World. Given that the population of the Greenland White-fronted Goose has increased rapidly during the 1980s and early 1990s before dropping back to mid 1980s populations levels in recent years, its seems likely that the subspecies remains a rather rare vagrant to the Canadian Atlantic Provinces and the coastal states of the US, probably individuals caught up with flocks of the Canada Geese that breed in west Greenland and that winter in this very area."

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