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Meet: Canada Goose

The last Canadian Geese are honking their way south over the pine trees. These birds are quite common in suburban areas for the north, often taking over parks, golf courses and even interfering with airports. But further north, they are a little less common and a lot more wild.

Suburban Canadian geese are often considered a nuisance as they can be aggressive to pets and people and in large numbers, they are extremely messy, fouling parks and playgrounds with droppings. But that perception of those birds is extremely recent historically. There are several subspecies of the Canada Goose, each regional to certain parts of the United States.

In the 1950s, a specific subspecies, the Giant Canada Goose, were believed to be extinct in North America. Starting in the 1960s with only 62 birds, they were bred in captivity and reintroduced through a very involved program involving habitat restoration and preservation. At the same time, people in the Midwest expanded recreational parks and lands along waterways and suburban expansion reduced predator populations. This creation of prime habitat led to a very robust (some say too robust) success story for the Giant Canada Goose.

In the northern areas of it's Range, the upper United States and Canada, these large birds fly south each winter. They eat primarily plants and the frozen north just doesn't provide enough open water and plants for them to overwinter. In southern areas of the Midwest, or where water is open all year and temperate due to outflows and industry, the Canada Goose may stay all winter. Feeding geese corn and grains can supplement their natural food sources in suburban areas and some groups will pillage garbage cans and bird feeders. They can be very aggressive with animals that enter their territory, going so far as to kill animals that threaten their nests. They have no qualms about threatening people either, so it is strongly advised that people do not feed them or approach them in municipal settings.

Geese do mate for life and remain a bonded pair through the years. If one dies, the other may find another mater but may also simply not reproduce. They are a wary parent, protecting their goslings fiercely. And while they may be a raucous and messy park visitor and even a nuisance in some areas, their honking as they fly overhead in the late fall dusk is sure reminder that winter is coming.

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