Smaller species are less likely to maintain families (or other forms of social groups) than larger species and are more likely to be displaced in competition with larger species. We observed mixed-species flocks of geese in southwest Louisiana and compared frequencies of social groups and success in social encounters of Lesser Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens; hereafter Snow Geese) with that of the smaller, closely-related Ross's Geese (C. rossii). Less than 7% of adult and <4% of juvenile Ross's Geese were in families, whereas 10–22% of adult and 12–15% of juvenile Snow Geese were in families. Snow Geese won 70% of interspecific social encounters and had higher odds of success against Ross's Geese than against individuals of their own species. The larger Snow Geese maintain families longer than Ross's Geese, which probably contributes to their dominance over Ross's Geese during winter. Predator vigilance probably is an important benefit of mixed flocking for both species. We suggest the long-standing association with Snow Geese (along with associated subordinate social status) has selected against family maintenance in Ross's Geese.
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Vol. 120 • No. 4