Birders flock to Avondale Park and Facebook to see rare goose

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Ross’s Goose visit to Avondale Park – Photo by Greg Harber

Yesterday, social media blew up in the Alabama birding world.

Led by the Birmingham Audubon Society, birders from around the area drove to Avondale Park and eagerly watched their Facebook newsfeed to get a glimpse of Ross’s Goose, a bird that is rarely seen upclose in Alabama and the Deep South.

And this beautiful bird did not disappoint. Below are  photos of the Ross’s Goose taken by Audubon’s Greg Harber, who was the first to identify the bird at Avondale Park.  We’ve also added Greg’s Facebook comments to help non-birders understand how rare and exciting this “visitor” to Birmingham was for avid birders and nature lovers.

Ross’s Goose at Avondale Park in Birmingham, Alabama

One additional ironic note about the Ross’s Goose visit yesterday.  The Birmingham Audubon Society is literally within walking distance from Avondale Park.

Do you think the bird was trying to drop off her membership?

Here are Greg Harber’s comments and pictures of the Ross’s Goose and his description on Facebook that included how fellow Audubon member Ken Wills first saw the Ross’s Goose and then Greg, on a hunch, went to Avondale Park.

Posted Wednesday, January 11th in the evening

Ross’s Goose photographed this morning at Avondale Park in Birmingham, AL. The bird was reported yesterday at W.C. Patton Park, off I-20/59 at the Tallapoosa Street exit, by Ken Wills. I searched for the bird first at Patton Park this morning, and upon not finding it there, on a hunch I pedaled to nearby Avondale Park (about a mile south of Patton Park) where I re-found the goose. Note its diminutive overall size, as compared to the Rock Pigeon and domesticated Mallards, and the much larger Canada Goose in the background of the last photo.

Ross’s Goose at Avondale Park in Birmingham, Alabama – Photo by Greg Harber

Harber’s response to a Facebook comment on why Ross’s Goose is hard to find in Alabama.

They are uncommon in small numbers in Alabama during the winter months. At least a few are usually observed at Wheeler NWR each winter, but the challenge is in identifying them as they often associate with Snow Geese – which are nearly identical except for their size differences and the “grin patch” on the snow goose. To give you a sense of the challenge, it’s not all that uncommon to see 1500-2000 Snow Geese on Limestone Bay in one huge flock, and there might be 2-4 Ross’s Geese floating and bobbing with them. Add a distance of perhaps 200-300 yards to the equation and one can appreciate the difficulty of trying to distinguish between the two species.

Ross’s Goose at Avondale Park in Birmingham, Alabama – Photo by Greg Harber

The Birmingham Audubon also posted on Facebook, a video of the Ross’s Goose discovery, which helped set off the wave of interest on social media.

It was a great day for birders everywhere in Birmingham. Interested in birding, especially in the urban environment?  You too can share in the excitement and be a part of protecting special places in a large metropolitan area. Check out Birmingham Audubon’s innovative urban bird habitat initiative.

  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.