“Loose as a goose” is an apt expression. Many people dislike Canada Geese for their habit of depositing droppings on trails and lawns. Despite their mess geese are intriguing birds, especially if they are carefully observed. We enjoy watching them all year and love the goose music they treat us to as they wing over our home at Winding Pathways.
Young Canada Geese form pair bonds early in their lives and have high fidelity to their mate for what can be a long life together. Urban geese enjoy an enviable lifestyle. They eat lawn grass and insects common in town and also snack on grain dropped from railroad cars and an occasional dying gizzard shad. Food is plentiful, and few predators pester adult geese. They have plenty of time for loitering and often socialize and rest with the flock in the shade on hot summer days or in the sunshine when the temperature is cool.
Geese follow an easy to observe pattern. In late February or early March, goose couples separate from the flock and can often be seen together. Males and females are identically marked. But the male ganders are usually slightly larger and have a thicker neck than their mate. Females make a nest sometimes hidden in vegetation on the ground and lined with a few sticks and goose down. Often their nest is on a muskrat house or another high spot. Sometimes they’ll even nest on a platform up in a tree. We’ve even seen one couple that became squatters in an eagle nest!
So, the nest can be hidden or very visible. It is usually near water. The female lays two to eight eggs and begins incubating once the entire clutch is complete. They hatch in 25 to 28 days, so most goslings appear in early to mid-April.
Geese are wonderful parents and defend their nest and babies from intruders. This includes bicyclists and trail walkers! Geese spend hours teaching their babies how to find food and avoid hazards. Few raccoons, foxes, or other predators are big and bold enough to kill an adult, and mature geese aggressively protect goslings. They hiss if a human or dog approach too closely.
Baby geese grow amazingly quickly and by late summer are only slightly smaller than their parents but otherwise look the same. Following the mating season geese flock up in large groups of family and friends and stay together until next spring’s mating season.
Feasting and Loafing
Many geese spend their nights on and near urban ponds and rivers. Early each morning they fly to farm fields to feast on waste grain and grass. Often, they return to town in the late afternoon to treat humans to their beautiful call as they wing overhead. They are one of our favorite birds to see and hear at Winding Pathways.