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Canada Goose Migration

November 16, 2010

Location: Adirondack Park, New York

In northern climes, some creatures hole up for the winter, others carry on fending off the cold however they can, and the rest just leave. Earlier this week, I did some preliminary fending off of the cold myself, closing up my lake house in the Adirondacks for the winter, though about 1,000 other visitors to the lake on those two chilly days, were leaving. Their honking kept me awake all night as flight after flight of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) landed on the water, jostled for position, took off and then landed again. They fed constantly, diving for aquatic plants and yanking up grass on my lawn, which got a good pre-snow fertilizing in the process.
Native to North America, Canada geese breed in Canada and the northern United States in the spring, raise their young then fly south for the winter. They need open water. As lakes, ponds and rivers freeze, they continue south, returning the following spring. However, this migratory instinct has disappeared in many populations of Canada geese. Since the latter half of the 20th century, the Canada goose population has grown substantially with many becoming year-round pests. The reason is two-fold: Their natural predators (coyotes, fox, wolves, owls, and eagles) diminished in many regions; and man-made bodies of water on golf courses, in parks and in planned communities abound, so food is available year-round, including human food. Though geese prefer grasses and grains, they’ll aren’t above scavenging trash.
Luckily, there are no “garbage geese” on the lakeshore where I rake leaves and move deck furniture. The fall chores take a little longer than expected. I can’t help but watch each grand flying V as it passes over the lake, breaks formation, then drops to the water’s surface with a controlled grace that belies a bird weighing up to 15 pounds. They can fly over 55 miles per hour and travel more than 600 miles in a day! I’m glad my little spot in the Adirondacks is an annual rest stop on their great migration.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dolores Hoerner permalink
    November 16, 2010 3:40 pm

    I live in central Illinois where the geese live year round, but I never tire of watching them. I also stop working everytime a flock passes over. Beautiful, pesty bird.

  2. Doug R permalink
    December 2, 2010 1:24 pm

    Beautiful photo and great blog entry as always.

    However I am not sure it has been proven that the non migratory populations are of recent origin and have lost their instinct to migrate. The resident coastal population in CT will go down to Delaware or even further when there is an extended freeze so clearly they at least know which way to fly. Also old town records suggest they were available as a food source over much longer periods than a brief migratory stop. IMO a lot of the non migratory/non natural labels are being promoted by golf course owners and developers who want them classified effectively as non native species so they can be extirpated.

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