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Chico's Snow Goose Festival

Chico's Snow Goose Festival Celebrates One of the Great Migrations

Chico is a perfect spot for a snow goose festival as it lies under the Pacific Flyway, the aerial route followed by millions of migratory waterfowl and other birds on their Fall migration from the northern cold of Alaska to the southern warmth of South America.

It's a long, arduous journey from Alaska to Patagonia - each species has their traditional and favorite steps for resting and refueling along the way. Butte County and the Chico area are best known for the vast numbers and variety of geese that stop here, especially the Snow Geese.

And, because of the arduous journey and our mild Winters, they don't all fly down to South America. Millions of Snow Geese and other migratory birds and raptors Winter-over right here in the Chico area!

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Why Chico for a Snow Goose Festival?

Although much of the area's natural wetlands have long since disappeared, naturalists and farmers in and around Chico have worked together to preserve those that remain, and to add to the wetland acreage by such practices as flooding the rice fields in Winter instead of burning the rice stubble.

Thanks to conservation practices like these, the availability of food for the birds, and the area's mild Winter climate, it's estimated that 3 to 5 million migrating waterfowl Winter over in California's Central Valley every year.

Chico is at the Northern end of that valley and, while many of the birds continue further south, thousands of them stay right in the Chico area for the entire Winter.

Out of all the hundreds of species, probably the most numerous and easily recognizable is the Snow Goose.

To see hundreds of them rising as one, and swarming the sky as they go out in search of food is a sight to behold! Imagine a cloud of snow-white bodies with black-tipped wings, blotting out the sun it passes overhead!

Every year, at the end of January, The Snow Goose Festival celebrates the coming of the geese with a weekend of field trips, workshop offerings, Junior Naturalist activities, the Uptown-Downtown Wildlife Art Exhibit, and a Gathering of the Wings Banquet with Silent Auction and raffle.

Check the Festival's website for details about upcoming activities: Snow Goose Festival.

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Wood Duck; Photographer UnknownWood Duck; Photographer Unknown

You don't have to wait for the Snow Goose Festival to experience the wonders of this annual migration.

The Central Valley has resident birds year-round, but - if you're looking for masses of waterfowl - the greatest numbers are to be seen in the late Fall through early Spring months.

Depending on the weather to the north, birds may start arriving in the Chico area as early as September, and may begin departing as early as January, or as late as March or April.

During the Winter - peak populations are usually December and January - you can drive the back roads and visit any of the wildlife refuges. Wherever you are, just look to the side of the road or up at the sky as you're traveling and you're likely to see:

  • Snow Geese along with several other kinds of geese,
  • Great Blue Heron, Great Egret,
  • Tundra and/or Trumpeter Swans
  • Sandhill Cranes
  • Hawks and eagles,
  • Too many different kinds of ducks to enumerate here - although my favorite is the multi-colored Wood Duck,
  • There can be as many as 236 species sharing the same wildlife refuge!

Here are a couple of links to wildlife refuges in the area where you can get more details:

Contact the Chico Chamber of Commerce office at 300 Salem Street (800.852.8570) for a copy of their Self-Guided Winter Migratory Waterfowl Tour brochure that will lead you through scenic Butte County.

If you like birding - even if you don't, actually - you can't help but be amazed at the spectacle that surrounds Chico during the Winter months!

And the Snow Goose Festival is a wonderful venue for exploring the mysteries of the annual waterfowl migration!

Here are some more Chico Events that you'll want to know about in addition to the Chico Snow Goose Festival:

Check them out and plan your trip to Chico around your favorite!

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