CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)
The Canada goose is a migratory bird – but with some qualifications. There are some groups that migrate to the south part of their breeding territory and will overwinter there if they find adequate food sources, i.e. unfrozen bodies of water. This is called ‘partial migration’. There are also groups that appear to reside year-round in PEI for the same reason. What makes the Canada goose migration spectacular is the way they fly – in V formation (although the two sides of the ‘V’ are not always equal), while constantly communicating with their honking calls. The V formation has been shown to allow the flying bird better aerodynamic efficiency. Their calls get more intense and excited when, for some reason, they decide to change direction for example. In our latitudes, their honking calls during migration – often heard before the birds can be seen – is associated with the coming of spring and fall.
The Canada goose has a distinctive white ‘chin strap’ with an otherwise black head and neck. It can weigh up to 6.5 kg (14 lb) and the sexes plumage is similar. The V formation behavior starts at a young age – goslings will swim this way behind the mother. Nests in the wild are usually built on a mound near the water.
During their moulting season in the summer Canada geese can’t fly, so when they cross roads it can end up in a fatal collision. Drivers have to be more cautious.
However the birds living in cities have been known to build their nests in some highly unusual, almost humorous, places. Here’s an example: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/mother-goose-claims-squatter-s-rights-on-condo-balcony-1.2610320 . Adding this to the fact that Canada geese are highly protective of their nests and will charge perceived threatening intruders, this can create unpleasant situations for city residents.
Canada geese are a protected species, although they are hunted during their fall migration – with the appropriate permits. They have been introduced to other countries as a game bird, with various results. Although usually keeping a safe distance from humans, there are however populations of Canada geese that have settled in big cities where they are causing problems due to their large droppings, comparable in shape and size to those of average size dogs. Adding to this is the fact that they hang out in large numbers on lawns such as golf courses and public parks, which has prompted authorities to sometimes relocate them and even cull them and give their meat away (for example to homeless people).
There are cities now providing tips to citizens on how to prevent Canada geese from nesting on their balconies or other places on their properties. Once the birds choose a nesting site, they will return to it the following years.
When living in Toronto, I have seen Canada geese (and mallards) being fed in the winter in High Park at the Grenadier Pond on the west side, where a stream remains unfrozen. Large bags of bread crumbs and other pieces of food were fed to the birds, right in front of a sign saying, ‘Please don’t feed the birds!’ Canada geese were littering Central Island, where it was as hazardous walking in the park there as in a cow pasture! A family of Canada geese was seen crossing Bloor Street, a main artery downtown Toronto. Some were also seen on the edge of the rooftop of an office building in Markham, in the northern suburban area of Toronto (the 905 area), and others were even walking along the entrance of that building!
Canada geese are unfortunately a high risk for aircraft due to their size and numbers. They are known to have caused disasters (see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Airways_Flight_1549 ), so now airport authorities have taken measures to remove them from the flight areas for improved safety.
The two Canada geese below swimming upside down were doing so in synchronization at some point. There is a Canada goose with a white forehead below. Some Canada geese are raised, and this trait is desired. It is not possible however to tell from a photo if such a Canada goose is an escapee or a descendant of one.
The first video below shows the same two Canada geese as above foraging for food in Lake Dalvay. One is literally ‘walking head down’ in the water.
The second video below takes a sweeping view of a large flock of Canada geese at Dalvay by the Sea (the same group as the photo above).
The last video shows a family (two adults and three goslings) heading down to a body of water. One of the adults holds its neck very straight and seems to guard the group.