The image I am sharing today is of a large flock of Snow Geese that I photographed circling a field they were landing in. This was at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma on January 10th, 2024.

To me, the Snow Geese’s arrival seemed different this season. I did not see as many in December. The flocks started out much smaller but have increased here in mid-January.

Snow Geese Arriving At The Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge

Snow Geese Arriving At The Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge

The arrival of Snow Geese at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge may have been delayed this winter, but determining the exact reasons can be difficult. Here are some possible factors that could have influenced their migration timing:

Weather:

  • Late fall and early winter weather patterns: Warmer or wetter conditions in their northern breeding grounds could have delayed their departure. Colder weather along their migration route may have slowed them down.
  • Ice cover on lakes and wetlands: Frozen water bodies limit their access to food and resting areas, potentially causing them to wait for more favorable conditions.

Food availability:

  • Depleted food sources up north: If food was plentiful in their summer habitat, they may have stayed longer before needing to migrate south.
  • Changes in food availability at the refuge: If their preferred food sources at the refuge were delayed in growing due to weather or other factors, they may have arrived later seeking alternative food.

Population factors:

  • Overall population size: Fluctuations in the Snow Goose population size can affect migration patterns. For example, a larger population may need more time to find suitable feeding and resting areas.
  • Age and experience of the geese: Younger or less experienced geese may be more cautious and take longer to migrate.

Other factors:

  • Predation: Increased predation pressure in breeding grounds or along the route could have made them more vigilant, delaying arrival.
  • Human activity: Disturbances from hunting or other human activities may have temporarily deterred their arrival.

Avian influenza could have played a role in the delayed arrival of Snow Geese at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge, although it’s difficult to say definitively without more data. We have had reports in Arkansas that some other types of birds have tested positive.

Potential impacts of Avian influenza:

  • Mortality: Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) can cause significant mortality in wild bird populations, including Snow Geese. If the geese faced outbreaks in their breeding grounds or along the migration route, many individuals might have perished, delaying the arrival of the remaining birds.
  • Behavioral changes: Even if not directly killed, sick or stressed geese might exhibit altered behavior, including hesitation to migrate or changes in migration patterns. They might avoid areas suspected of having bird flu or take longer to rest and recover.

Only the local wildlife officials and researchers familiar with the geese and the regional avian influenza situation can provide the most accurate insights.

Image Information:

  • Date: 01/10/24
  • Time: 08:34 AM
  • Camera: Canon EOS R5
  • Lens: Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM
  • ISO: 1000
  • Aperture: 7.1
  • Shutter: 1/3200
  • Exp. Comp.:+0.3
  • Lens (mm): 500
  • Program Mode: Manual