By Terri Estes

Some people love them; some people hate them. I happen to love them, so I am going to write about them. The Canada goose is a large, lovely goose with a long black neck and a signature white chinstrap with white cheek patches. These geese can be observed in grassy areas close to marshes and other bodies of water throughout the New York/Long Island area.

The pleural for the Canada goose is NOT Canadian geese, even though it sounds correct. The name Canada Goose is based on the species’ scientific name, Branta canadensis. When describing these birds, it is accurate to use the term “Canada geese.”

Thousands of these birds fly north and south each year. They fill the sky with long V-formations. But as our climate has become a little milder, many of these birds have made this area their permanent home and some people regard them as pests. Where large flocks congregate, their droppings accumulate, which can damage lawns, vegetation and property. Golf courses, in particular, have waged a war on Canada geese. Large flocks can also pose a threat to aviation safety, especially around airports. But these geese do contribute positively to the environment in several ways. Their feces, when deposited in natural areas, contribute to nutrient cycling and can benefit the health of the soil and support growth of vegetation. They are prey for various predators in our area and their activities can influence the behavior of other species within their habitats.

Regardless of which side of the fence you are on regarding this bird, you have to admit that they are fascinating. Here are a few interesting facts about the Canada goose, that, if you are not already on the pro side, hopefully will sway you more in their favor.

  • Canada geese fly in a distinctive V-shaped formation during migration. This formation provides aerodynamic advantages, by allowing the geese to conserve energy by taking advantage of air currents created by the bird in front of them. The birds take turns being at the front of the V, so that they all get a chance to draft off of one another.
  • These geese mate for life. They practice assortative mating, which means that they seek out partners who are similar in size. If a mate dies, they may seek another partner, or choose to remain single.
  • Baby Canada geese, known as goslings, learn to swim within one day of being born. The ever-watchful parents are notoriously aggressive if they think their goslings are in danger. They have been known to spread their wings and charge perceived threats, including humans.
  • There are at least 11 recognized subspecies of the Canada goose. According to the Cornell lab of Ornithology, in general, the goose types get smaller as you move northward, and darker as you go westward.
  • These geese can live on average 10 to 20 years. The oldest known wild Canada goose was over 33 years. She was shot in Ontario in 2001. She had been banded in Ohio in 1969.

This is a very adaptable bird that can thrive in various environments. They can survive in saltwater and freshwater habitats. They are efficient flyers and can travel up to 1,500 miles a day during migration, but for a period of time each year, they can’t fly at all. This is when they molt their feathers, usually late June-July.

So, whether you are pro-goose, or con-goose, you have to admit that these are pretty cool birds!

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