Birds of Chignik Lake – Emperor Goose: Alaska’s Painted Beauty

Emporer Gesse in Flight

Part of a flock of over 200 Emperor Geese overwintering at Chignik Lagoon. An almost strictly Alaskan and Siberian species, Emperors winter along the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutians and breed still further north. (March 9, 2019)

Although not strictly a species associated with the Chignik Lake study area, I include Emperor Geese in this report as they are a spectacular, unique bird that is special to The Chigniks. They are not likely to be encountered outside of Alaska and far eastern Siberia. In recent years their numbers in Alaska have been rebounding following a precipitous decline which saw their population plummet from 139,000 birds in 1964 to just 42,000 in 1986.

Formerly referred to as Beach Geese and still sometimes called Painted Geese, these surely are, as Edward W. Nelson who made a special study of them declared, the “least known and the most beautiful” of North America’s Geese. (March 9, 2019)

As our planet continues to change, it will be interesting to note what effects this has on Emperors. Hopefully they will part of the Chignik wintertime seascape for a very long time to come.

Emperor Goose Range Map: with permission from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birds of the World

Emperor Goose Anser canagicus
Order: Anseriformes
Anser: Latinized Greek for swan
canagicus: for Kanaga Island in the Aleutian Island chain.

Status at Chignik Lake, 2016-19: Possibly Occasional on Chignik River; Common on Chignik Lagoon in late Winter

David Narver, Birds of the Chignik River Drainage, summers 1960-63Rare on Black River

Alaska Peninsula and Becharof National Wildlife Refuge Bird List, 2010:
Common Spring & Fall; Absent Summer; Uncommon Winter

Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve Bird List: Presence Documented

Previous Article: Tundra Swan – Harbinger of Spring at The Lake

Next Article: Cackling Goose

*For a clickable list of bird species and additional information about this project, click here: Birds of Chignik Lake

© Photographs, images and text by Jack Donachy unless otherwise noted.


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