Why some Canada geese don’t migrate and how owners can manage them

Canada geese have a bad reputation. Across much of the country, the number of resident geese has exploded, populating – and, yes, overcrowding – local parks, golf courses, residential lakes and lakeside yards.

However, most non-migrating “urban geese” are actually an oversized subspecies of the Common Canada Goose. Called the giant Canada goose, the species was once thought to be extinct. When a tiny population discovered in the 1960s were pampered in breeding, the numbers rebounded and giants were reintroduced to urban areas.

What happened next surprised many. Giant Canadas, larger and lazier than their smaller cousins, prefer not to migrate. So most of the time they don’t, which has far-reaching ramifications: if the adults don’t migrate and teach their offspring the road, the young become permanent homes. As a result, these large herds of urban geese do not know how to migrate.

Canada geese cross East Morgan Avenue in Evansville after blocking traffic.

Do the math. Most geese lay five or six eggs. Within three years of the first pairs, 128 geese could easily strut around a single urban setting. Extrapolate the number over the typical 30-year lifespan of each pair. Add the other pairs that probably flocked with the first pair. And oh my god, the numbers.

Of course, not all adults raise six goslings. Some die or do not mate. And not all goslings survive. Predators thin out the brood. Still, the potential for troublesome overpopulation of non-migrating geese is mind-boggling – and blocks golf course and park wardens as well as owners along the lake’s shores.

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Containment ponds in subdivisions often exceed 10 acres and generally remain open long after peripheral water bodies have frozen. People who live on or near such a body of water, on high priced lakeside land, benefit from a habitat that is also prime habitat for geese.

Haunted by these giant waterfowl visitors, homeowners may end up with more of a mess than is acceptable. Mowed lawns, however, create an attractive habitat for geese. Geese love to graze in short grasses and bask along the path. Prevention is therefore obvious. Do not mow to the water’s edge. Maintain a six-foot-wide strip of taller grass or other vegetation between the yard and low water level, and geese are unlikely to cross the natural barrier.

But no matter where you live, there is another problem with these urban geese. Some people like to take the kids to the park to feed the ducks and geese. No. It’s bad for people, and it’s bad for waterfowl – for many reasons.

Captured on video:The Goose Family Gets Official Escort On The Reno Freeway

Here is the scenario: Waterfowl poop. A lot. The runoff carries the waste into nearby ponds, streams or rivers. Faeces promote algae growth and deprive aquatic plants of oxygen. Worse yet, feces contain high levels of bacteria, such as E. coli, a cause of serious human illness. If the ducks or geese leave food behind, the leftovers go moldy, which is another disease threat. Feeding causes geese to congregate, so the poo gets worse, as does the risk of disease – yours and theirs.

Just for the record, no bird can digest baked goods, so feeding those baked goods hurts more than it helps. In addition, sugar, salt and additives crack the eggshells of birds.

But back to the point: wild, migratory Canada geese are not the same beings as non-migratory, urban giant geese, polluting waterfowl. The elegant Canada geese, the great wild creatures of the northern breeding grounds, are the impressive winged creatures that migrate through the skies in late fall, making their way to the southern wintering habitats.

For more information on birds and their habitat, see Sharon Sorenson’s website at birdsintheyard.com, track daily bird activity on Facebook at SharonSorensonBirdLady, or email him at [email protected]

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