Week 1 Lesson 1
Today we will be learning about the waterfowl that are most common to the United States.
First of all we will take a look at the most common migratory bird known to the United States: The Canadian Goose.
The Candadian Goose is the biggest goose, but not the biggest migratory bird, which is the Tundra Swan, but well get to that later. Most full grown geese can grow weigh from 14 to 20 pounds. they can have a wingspan of up to 50 to 75 inches, and grow up the 30 to 45 inches in lengeth. Canada geese live around 10-25 years on average in the wild, although some may live to be as old as 30. One goose lived to be 40 years old in captivity. Canada geese mate for life, and will begin searching for a mate between 2-3 years of age. If a mate dies, the goose will try to find another mating partner.Baby geese, called goslings, are incredibly impressionable and will follow virtually anything that moves, thinking it to be their mother. They have been known to follow dogs, ducks, and humans, and this behavior can be quite endearing. Less than 24 hours after they are born, goslings will be lead to water by their parents to learn how to swim. The goslings will be able to dive 30-40 feet underwater by the time they are 1 day old. As they become more independent of their parents, groups of goslings may join together, forming "gang broods" of up to 100 goslings.Goslings learn to fly between 2-3 months of age. For the first year of their lives, they stay with their parents, and will follow their parents during their first migration before forming into groups with other young geese.
When a goose feels threatened, it will stretch out its neck and honk loudly. It may also hiss, bite, and slap at the perceived threat with its wings. Common predators of geese are coyotes, foxes, raccoons, crows, wolves, owls, bears, and eagles.
Canada Geese Habitat
Canada geese breed in northern sections of North America, typically Canada and the northern half the United States. In some temperate areas it is warm enough for them to be year round residents of their range, and they may not migrate. Some groups of Canada geese have even taken up permanent residence in areas that would not seem hospitable to year round residency, as north as Esquimalt, British Columbia and as southern as Florida.
Canada geese like to select nesting sites on elevated, secluded areas near bodies of water like lakes, streams, and ponds. The female goose builds a nest lined with plant material and down that she plucks from her body, and lays an egg each day in until a full clutch of five or so eggs is laid. The male geese acts as a sentry, watching the nest from a nearby location.
What Do Geese Eat?
Canada geese primarily eat green vegetation, grasses, aquatic plants, and grains, but they do occasionally eat fish and insects. In urban areas, many of them will pick food off of the streets and even out of garbage cans. They have been known to be a pest for farmers, eating and damaging crops and fouling pastures with their waste
Canada Geese Migration
Canada geese migrate south from their northern summer habitats for several reasons. Canada geese need open water where they can swim away from land based predators and dive for food, and if lakes and ponds freeze over in the winter, they must leave for warmer climates. Peak fall migration for Canada geese occurs during September and October. Because Canada geese like to return to the places they were born, they will fly back during the spring.
Not all Canada geese migrate, but many who make their summer homes in Canada and the northern United States do. Many Canada geese that are year round residents of their habitat are found in urban areas where their natural predators have diminished, and where there are man made bodies of water that may be warmed to keep from freezing over.
During migration, Canada geese fly in a V formation, with each bird in line flying a little bit higher than the goose in front of it. One theory as to to why they fly in this formation is that it allows the lead goose to break the headwind, allowing the birds behind to "draft". Canada geese communicate during their flights by honking, and will shift positions during their flight in order to take turns breaking the wind and reducing fatigue.
Canada geese fly at an average speed of about 40 miles per hour when migrating, but may increase their speed to 70 miles per hour if they catch a strong tailwind. Migrations can be as long as 2,000 to 3,000 miles, and the geese are capable of flying up to 1,500 miles in a single day if the weather is good. During their long migrations, Canada geese typically fly at an altitude of 2,000 to 8,000 feet, although pilots have reported sightings of Canada geese at altitudes of up to 9,000 feet.