The Birds are Back In Town: Snow geese, swans arrive in Skagit Valley for the winter.


Living in the Skagit Valley has many perks – beautiful scenery, bountiful hikes, mountains, water, and every winter the return of the snow geese and trumpeter swans.

Several weeks ago I began hearing the familiar and nasal “honk, honk, honk” in the mornings just after sunrise. That sound comes not from an angry driver stuck in traffic, but the migrating flocks of geese. Their V-shaped formations, known as chevrons, lace the sky as they fly over my neighborhood. The entourage of birds began arriving in late October and will stay through March.Flock of Snow Geese close up (Image: MaryRose Denton / Seattle Refined)

Here They Come

As the weather gets colder the number of geese increases into thousands of birds, all descending into the valley – and along with them, birdwatchers. They make this rich farmland area their home until spring. Wondering how to tell a goose from a swan? The snow geese are smaller in size than the swans with white bodies and black wingtips. Their rather boisterous chatter is another giveaway.

Ever hear the term “snowbird”? These flocks are the definition of the term. Their habitat for the rest of the year is up in the Arctic tundra, where they will nest and raise their young in large colonies out on the open frozen prairie.Snow geese flying home over valley farmland. Can really see their black wing tips! (Image: MaryRose Denton / Seattle Refined)

As autumn approaches they begin their migration south, landing here in the Skagit Valley. With their young offspring in tow, they will spend the next several months grazing on the fertile fields of this area. Typically, they feed on natural delta salt marsh plants, such as those found along the slough of Skagit Bay, but increasingly supplement their diet with residue crops of potatoes and corn. Some farmers of the area even plant an overwinter cover crop of winter wheat for the geese to forage.

Find out where is the best spot to see them…

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