Stories in Washington

Snow Geese

Soaring in Numbers

A large flock of snow geese flies across the sky.
Snow Geese Snow geese at Klamath Basin in Oregon, United States, North America. © Michael Wilhelm

For many, Washington’s flocks of winter snow geese are a favorite spectacle. While these birds come here every year, they never fail to amaze. Why? Because they come to western Washington’s greater Skagit Delta by the tens of thousands! When these flocks take off en masse—say, because a bald eagle flies overhead—they are so noisy and dizzying to behold that it’s easy to lose one's balance.

Illustration of three snow geese; two are standing on grass and the third is flying overhead.
Snow Geese These resilient birds have made a remarkable comeback and now are one of the most abundant waterfowl in the world. © Erica Sloniker/TNC

Our snow geese spend their summers on Wrangel Island in Russia. From there they travel approximately 3,000 miles to the Stillaguamish and Skagit river deltas, where they begin to arrive in late September.

Worldwide, snow geese were reduced to only a few thousand around 1900. But they’ve made a remarkable comeback and now are one of the most abundant waterfowl in the world. They’ve been so successful, in fact, that in some areas they are starting to destroy their own habitat as they tear vegetation out of the ground to eat.

You can check out these amazing birds and more at the annual Port Susan Snow Goose & Birding Festival in February. The website has lots of information about the festival, special events, exploring the area—and, of course, snow geese.

You can also learn more about snow geese on Seattle Audubon’s BirdWeb.