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The Lesser Snow Goose and Canvas-Back Breeding at Tule Lake, California

Stanley G. Jewett
Publication Information
3 (May-June)
From Field and Study

The Lesser Snow Goose and Canvas-back Breeding at Tale Lake, California.-On August 2, 1946, a flock of fourteen Lesser Snow Geese (Chew hypwborea hyfierbovm) were seen at the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Siskiyou County, California. It is quite probable that all these were cripples left behind when others of the species moved north in the previous spring, but when they were seen in August, all were able to fly, at least for short distances. As we approached the flock, which was resting on a levee road, nine flew and soon alighted about 200 yards away on the open water of the lake. The five remaining birds permitted us to drive our car to within forty or fifty yards of them before taking wing. They all rose in close formation and flew rather laboriously a short distance where they were studied with binoculars under very favorable conditions. Much to my amazement I saw that two were adults and three were young not fully grown. A small amount of fuzzy down still adhered to the necks and the middle of the backs of all three young. These three with their parents were seen again the next day in the same vicinity. The only possible explanation of these geese nesting so far south of their normal breeding grounds is that these two adults mated, even though one or both were crippled and could not return to their hereditary summer range, a condition not so distantly related to that of captive birds. The question now arises, will these locally hatched young go north with others of their kind, or will they remain to be pioneers in establishing a southern breeding colony? The situation deserves further study.

In the past several years unverified reports of the Canvas-b’ack (Aythya valisineriu) nesting in northeastern California have been brought to my attention. Such reports were nearly always from some observer that saw “cans” during the normal nesting season, but none reported the actual finding of a nest or downy young. However, some years ago while studying the matchless collection of photographs of birds taken by William L. and Irene Finley, I noted a picture taken on the west shore of Lower Klamath Lake, Siskiyou County, in the early summer of 1905. This photograph clearly shows an adult female Canvas-back with downy young which were undoubtedly hatched in the near vicinity.Unfortunately this photograph is no longer available and the exact date it was taken is not known.

Although I have several times seen adult Canvas-backs on both Lower Klamrth and Tule lakes, it was not until August 3, 1946, that I personally secured evidence of their nesting. On that day I came unexpectedly close to a female with nine downy young on a small isolated pond in the old Tule Lake bed, There were no other birds on this body of water. I watched this family for some time from a distance of about fifty feet under exceptionally good light.

With the Finley photograph and this recent observation of my own we can now state positively that the Canvas-back does at least occasionally nest in the state of California.--STANLEY G. JEWETT, Portland, Oregon, October 20,1946. 

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