Migration Alert: Fast-Paced Light Goose Migration Surges into Missouri

Feb. 21, 2020 – Central and Mississippi Flyways – Light Goose Conservation Order

© Avery Outdoors

Light goose numbers are continuing to build at historical staging areas in northwest Missouri, where hunters are finding mixed success targeting adult birds on the leading edge of the spring migration.

The current snow depth map of North America shows a retreating line of snow and ice in the Mississippi and Central Flyways, with bare ground funneling down into northwest Missouri, where large numbers of snows, blues and Ross’s geese are staging at Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge.

The current waterfowl survey at Loess Bluffs includes close to 1 million light geese – an even more impressive number given the challenges associated with estimating such a large number of birds. 

The first light geese arrived in this corner of Missouri in early February, following a pattern of warm weather and southerly winds accompanied by a full moon. A round of winter weather sent the geese back south before warmer temperatures had the birds pushing north again along their traditional migration corridors.

Tony Vandemore, guide and co-owner of Habitat Flats near Sumner in north-central Missouri, reports that a good number of light geese have recently arrived in his area, including on the nearby Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

“Everything got pushed back south last week and now the birds are pushing north again as fast as they can,” he says.

Adult birds form the leading edge of the migration, but they will hopefully be followed by flocks holding more juvenile birds from the south.

“It’s been all adult birds so far. We have not seen many of the younger geese,” Vandemore says. “Overall, though, things have been much better than last year.”

The challenges presented by the 2019 Light Goose Conservation Order – primarily the persistent winter weather and low numbers of juvenile geese – haven’t been forgotten by those hunters in the fields this spring, but there are reasons to be optimistic this year. With a temperate weather pattern in the forecast for Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota over the next 10 days, this year’s migration could follow a more traditional schedule.

As always, a March snow storm across the northern plains could change conditions in a hurry, but at this point it certainly appears that light geese will be surging north in short order, where a more stubborn line of snow and ice in the upper reaches of the flyways may hold them in place for a while.