You can see pure white snow geese at this year's Snow Goose Festival. Photo by Lynn Chamberlain, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Capistrano has its swallows; Utah has its snow geese—for now, anyway.

Every year thousands—an estimated 20,000 or more this year—make reservations for February accommodations on Gunnison Bend Reservoir west of Delta to see the geese.

Snow geese are snow white except for a few black feathers on the tips of their wings.

Their schedule is simple enough—fly, eat and socialize. All of which makes the sights and sounds of these birds one of the most breathtaking experiences available in the wild. 

The geese, during their annual migration, follow a pretty set schedule. In the winter they fly south from Canada and Alaska, through the United States to Mexico. In February, they retrace their flight, stopping to eat and rest in Utah. 

If the sight of that many large birds taking flight isn’t memorable enough, the sounds of that many geese, with their nasal-like honking, is captivating.  

Remember, now, these are no small sparrows. Snow geese weigh up to seven pounds and have a wing span of four and a half feet, which makes a noticeable figure on the ground or in flight. 

What makes this annual gathering so fascinating is that when they decide to move it’s pretty much a community event. They will leave the waters in the morning to visit barren grain fields around Delta and then take flight again in the afternoon and return for the night. All those birds taking flight in mass resembles a huge, moving cloud. All those birds honking—in flight or grounded—is riveting. 

Snow geese are called the “chatterboxes’’ of the waterfowl world. Many consider them to be the noisiest members of the bird world. 

Bob Walters, watchable wildlife coordinator for the DWR, advises visitors to be patient when viewing. 

Records over the years show the birds will take flight between 9 and 10:30 a.m. to feed, then return and take flights off the water again between 4 and 6 p.m. 

This is one event I recommend seeing, especially for families, not only because of the birds and the sounds, but the town of Delta and wildlife groups will hold a three-day Delta Snow Goose Festival, Feb. 22–24. 

Among other things, Walters and staff will be available to answer question, deliver facts and provide spotting scopes for a closer look at the birds. 

Don’t, however, expect to get too close to the birds. They are, as with most wildlife, leery of people and will take flight when approached. 

A number of activities will be held over the three days of the festival.

Each day, individuals and vendors, offering a full range of crafts and foods, will be set up at the Millard County Fairgrounds and at the reservoir. 

On Feb. 23, the Wild Goose Chase or 5K run/walk and 10K run will be held. It will start on the main beach at the reservoir. 

There will also be a competitive skeet shoot on the 23rd at the Delta range. 

And, for the truly hearty, there will be a chance to take a dip in the cold reservoir waters with others during the “Dunk, Dunk, Goose’’ event. 

This is truly something to see and it only happens once a year.  

Snow Goose Festival

Dates: Feb. 22-24
Place: Gunnison Bend Reservoir West of Delta
Crafts and Vendors: Millard County Fairgrounds
Wild Goose Chase: 5K run/walk and 10K run on Feb. 23
Wild Goose Skeet Shoot: Delta Shooting Range on Feb. 23
Dunk, Dunk, Goose: Dip in reservoir on Feb. 23