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Emperor Goose

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Latin: Chen canagica
Average length: M 27", F 27"
Average weight: M 6.20 lbs., F 6.10 lbs.

Description: Male and female emperor geese have gray body plumage that is subtly barred with black and white. The white head and hindneck, which are often stained orange-red from feeding in tidal ponds where iron oxide is concentrated, contrast markedly with the dark foreneck. Contrast distinguishes this goose from the blue-morph snow goose, whose entire foreneck and chin are white like the head. The emperor goose's short bill is pink and lacks the black "grinning patch" present in blue geese. The legs and feet of the emperor goose are yellow-orange, while those of the blue goose are pink.


Breeding: Eighty to 90 percent of the world's emperor geese breed along the western coast of Alaska, from Kuskokwim Bay to Kotzebue Sound, and on St. Lawrence and Nunivak islands. Emperor geese prefer to nest on banks along sloughs and rivers, elevated shorelines, marsh hummocks, pingos (low hills or mounds forced up by hydrostatic pressure in an area underlain with permafrost), flat grasslands, raised scour blocks, peninsulas and islands. They lay an average of 5 eggs.


Migrating and Wintering: Most emperor geese winter along the Aleutian Islands, with fewer numbers along the south coast of the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak and Afognak islands. In mild years, some birds winter along the coast of the Gulf of Alaska and Cook Inlet. Small numbers occur in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and occasionally northern California.


Population: Alaska's emperor goose population declined precipitously from 139,000 birds in 1964 to 42,000 in 1986. Biologists suspect subsistence hunting and coastal oil pollution are factors responsible for the observed decline.


Food habits: Emperor geese feed on seaweed; eelgrass; sea lettuce; algae; beach rye; beach pea; seabeach sandwort; grasses and sedges; crowberries and mollusks and crustaceans found in intertidal areas, salt marshes and tundra meadows.


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