Distribution and Habitat Use of Snow and Whitefronted Geese in Arkansas

We used winter aerial survey data to evaluate abundance, distribution, and habitat use of snow (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) and white-fronted geese (Anser alhifrons) wintering in Arkansas' Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV). Longterm survey data indicate that numbers of both species have increased more than lO-fold during the past decade, with recent maximum survey counts of 503,000 and 19,000 for snow and white-fronted geese, respectively. During our study (198589), snow geese were distributed throughout Arkansas' MAV, but most whitefronted geese were observed in the southern portion of the region. In agricultural settings, 65% and 55% of snow and white-fronted geese, respectively, were observed in harvested rice fields; 28% and 37%, respectively, were observed in harvested soybean fields; and 7% and 8%, respectively, were observed in winter wheat. Harvested rice was the only agricultural habitat that both species used in percentages greater than availability during all years of our study. We believe that the magnitude of rice acreage in Arkansas (>0.4 million ha) will support the continued growth of wintering goose populations if current agricultural policy does not change appreciably.

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