Urbanland Who’s Who: The Canada Goose
The Canada Goose Branta Canadensis is a native North American species of waterfowl. There are up to 11 subspecies of the Canada Goose, but they all have handsome markings—black head, white cheek patches, and long black neck—and fly together in a “V” formation when migrating.
That is, if they migrate: Another characteristic of the Canada Goose is that it has no problem living near humans. In fact, they find urban areas like Toronto an ideal place to settle down because they’re protected from most predators (except coyotes and loose dogs) and food is plentiful in the form of lawns and garbage. Heck, people even bring them bagels and bread. If you had such a sweet deal, you’d chuck the whole migrating business, too.
Which means that the urban Canada Geese population is growing fast. In fact, the city now considers them a nuisance bird. A single goose can produce a pound of poop a day. These droppings ruin parkland and contaminate water (waterfowl have been blamed for the closings of five city beaches). Last year, Council approved new measures and the expansion of existing programs to better manage gulls, ducks and geese that are polluting city parks—specifically Centre Island Beach and Bluffer’s Park Beach. Techniques used to discourage geese from taking up year-long residency include habitat modification, the oiling of eggs to prevent hatching, and the use of trained dogs and falcons (to chase away flocks). But the simplest way keep Canada Geese at bay is to encourage citizens to stop feeding them. No goose in the city is starving, that’s why there are so many of them. You are not doing them any favours by giving them day-old bagels—in fact over-population leads to crowding and disease—their nasty bird turds contaminate the water they drink, too.
Another problem associated with the urban geese population is aggressive behaviour toward humans. As we have reported in the past, April to June is the season when the Canada Goose population becomes downright mean. They are a fiercely familial bird and will stop at nothing to protect their eggs until after they have hatched and the little goslings learn to fly at the end of June. How aggressive are they? Well, on May 13th, a family of Canada Geese brought the 401 to a halt as they tried to cross the highway. Canada Geese are big birds and have been known to inflict some nasty injuries such as bites and broken legs, so to survive a goose attack, give them plenty of space and if one comes at you, run away.
Photo by syncros from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.