Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Ross's Goose - Anser rossii
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General Comments The Ross's Goose is now a regular winter resident, in very small numbers, amid large flocks of Snow Geese near the northern half of the coast. Also, the species has an unusual proclivity of turning up far inland with very small numbers of other geese, often at small ponds and other unlikely places for a rare goose. Records of this winter visitor have been greatly increasing in the 21st Century, both near the coast and inland, probably owing to a range-wide population increase, but also helped by more vigilant study of large flocks of Snow Geese.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S1N
Global Rank G4
Coastal Plain Winter resident. Rare to locally uncommon but increasing in winter -- regular at a few sites -- in the northeastern portion of the province, south to Pea Island, Lake Mattamuskeet, Pungo refuge, and central Washington; late Oct through late Feb. Casual south of Dare and Hyde, with only five records: Beaufort (Carteret), 17-23 Dec 1999; Southport (Brunswick), 5-12 Jan 2002; Veterans Park (New Hanover), 15-19 Dec 2014; Ocean Isle Beach (Brunswick), 24 Nov 2015; and Veterans Park, 15-18 Jan 2017. Away from the tidewater area, there are about six records: nearly all are singles, but two were near Tarboro (Edgecombe) from 18 Dec 2022 - 2 Jan 2023. Peak counts: 23 in central Washington on 22 Nov 2019; 21 at Pungo refuge on 11 Jan 2015; 17 at that refuge on 19 Jan 2014; 16 at that refuge on 10 Feb 2019.
Piedmont Winter visitor. Formerly casual; now rare but greatly increasing, with about 55 records. Scattered across most of the province, though more frequent in the western half of the province. Extreme dates -- 21 Oct to 21 Mar, plus one lingering to 1 May, and an out of season record on 3 Jun (2005). Peak counts: 5, eastern Alexander, 6 Dec 2015; 4, Mid-Pines Road south of Raleigh (Wake), 1 Jan 2017; 4, along Shopton Road (Mecklenburg), 30 Nov - 3 Dec 2017.
Mountains Winter visitor. Rare, but greatly increasing, in the southern counties, with about 46 records. All are from the southern counties, except for two records in Watauga. Dates range between 23 Oct and 18 Apr, plus a very late bird in Watauga from 30 Apr - 10 May 2014. Peak count: 5, Mills River Wastewater Treatment Plant (Henderson), 9 Nov 2017; 4, at a wastewater treatment plant along NC 191 (Henderson), 4 Dec 2016.
Finding Tips In the past few winters, the species has been seen, generally with Snow Geese, in fields near Pungo Lake (especially along Pat's Road) and Phelps Lake, and at a pond/fields where US 64 meets Beasley Road (Washington). Over the last few decades, most were picked out of Snow Goose flocks along NC 12 at Pea Island, but the white geese flocks are declining there. In any case, patience is the key to finding the species. Normally, you must be willing to examine hundreds to a thousand or more Snows to find a Ross's. Fortunately, Ross's is quite a bit smaller than a Snow Goose, and most tend to be immaculately white in plumage. The species is difficult to pick out when feeding in marsh grasses or resting on water; some are picked out in flight amid flocks of Snow Geese by their obviously smaller size. Farther inland, they turn up mainly at farm ponds and other small isolated lakes and ponds, and not at the larger lakes/reservoirs.
Attribution LeGrand[2024-05-08], LeGrand[2023-08-09], LeGrand[2023-05-17]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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