In Praise of Geese

The nursery rhymes of Mother Goose taught us to appreciate geese, especially those that could lay a golden egg. Unfortunately, the good name of the goose family has been tarnished in recent decades by the increase and habits of the Canada species. Despite these drawbacks, they still have many redeeming features.

goosethumb
Published February 13, 2012 4:52 PM
4 min read

0:00

goosethumbThe nursery rhymes of Mother Goose taught us to appreciate geese, especially those that could lay a golden egg. Unfortunately, the good name of the goose family has been tarnished in recent decades by the increase and habits of the Canada species. Despite these drawbacks, they still have many redeeming features.

 

By Paul Hicks

 

The nursery rhymes of Mother Goose taught us to appreciate geese, especially those that could lay a golden egg. Unfortunately, the good name of the goose family has been tarnished in recent decades by the increase and habits of the Canada species. Despite these drawbacks, they still have many redeeming features.

 

gooseA staple food of Native Americans, Canada geese (not turkeys) were served at the first Thanksgiving dinner. Even earlier, the explorer Samuel Champlain brought two pairs of these handsome and delectable wildfowl back from Canada as a gift for the French King. Over the next 300 years, land development and hunting greatly reduced the overall population in North America, but conservation efforts and increased food supplies have since greatly increased their numbers.

 

Canada geese are still among the most iconic migratory birds on the continent, signaling the seasonal changes as they fly in V-shaped formations across the skies. Geese that breed in the far north tend to migrate long distances, while those breeding in southern Canada and this country migrate shorter distances or not at all. Winter flocks on local park lawns and golf courses are a common sight.

 

It is widely thought that the lead goose in the V-formation creates an updraft that gives the following birds a boost, but some believe it is designed for both communication and aerodynamic purposes. As the geese call to each other during flight you can tell the deeper, slower honks of the ganders from the quicker and higher-pitched hinks of the females.

 

There are at least six (some say as many as 11) subspecies of Canada geese. In general, both males and females have a grayish-brown body with a long black neck and head that has white cheek patches and chin strap. Pairs usually mate for life, with the female building the nest while the male stands guard.

 

Nesting activity begins in March, earlier than many other species. The female covers her eggs with feather down plucked from her breast to help incubate and camouflage them. The yellow-gray goslings leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching to eat and swim. After nesting, between mid-June and July, adult geese undergo a four- to five-week molt when they are flightless. They regain their flight feathers about the time their young are ready to fly.

On daily feeding flights, geese may reach 1,000 feet in altitude, but airline pilots have reported seeing migrating Canada geese as high as 9,000 feet. In January 2009 a U.S. Airways plane collided with a flock of geese shortly after taking off from LaGuardia. Fortunately, the pilot brought the plane to an emergency landing in the Hudson River with only minor injuries to the passengers and crew.

 

Concerns about health as well as aviation risks have resulted in the use of various public and private remedies to control and reduce the numbers of Canada geese. The Town of Greenwich has even provided goose management training. Despite the problems Canada geese pose in urban and suburban areas, they are an important part of our natural heritage.

 

If only the Canada goose (Branta canadensis) had remained as trouble-free as its cousin, the Brant (Branta bernicla). The Brant is an appealing, small goose, slightly larger than a Mallard duck, which breeds in the high Arctic tundra and winters on the Atlantic coast. Small flocks can be seen this time of year along and on the shore of Long Island Sound in this area.

 

Aside from its much smaller size, the Brant can be distinguished from the Canada by its black head and chest with a partial white collar. Its call is also distinctively different —“a soft, gargling rrot or cronk,” is how it is described in “The Sibley Guide to Birds”.

 

If you are very lucky, you might stumble on another cousin, the Barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis), which is a rare visitor from northern Europe. It is similar in size to the Brant but has a small beak, white face and a beautiful barred pattern on its back. Adding to its allure is the ancient legend in Britain that Barnacle geese were born from barnacles on driftwood, and, therefore, were deemed fit by the Catholic Church to eat during Lent.

 

If you are not inclined to go outside on a cold wintry day in search of exotic geese, there is still a way for even a couch potato to enjoy the special charms of wild geese. Rent from Netflix or borrow from the library “Winged Migration”, an Oscar-nominated documentary with amazing photography of Canada geese and other migrating birds. It gives new meaning to the Mother Goose rhyme: “Goosey, goosey gander, whither do you wander.”

Filed Under:
Subscribe and get freshly baked articles. Join the community!
Begin typing your search above and press return to search. Press Esc to cancel.

rajbet app

rajbet india

lottoland asia

lottoland india

dafabet login

dafabet app

4rabet login

khelo24bet login

rummy gold

rummy glee

teen patti

teen patti gold

teen patti joy

teen patti master

rummy modern

andar bahar

dafabet

bonus new member

gullybet

IPLWin

IPLWin

tk88

tk88

thienhabet

thienhabet

Dbbet

Nagad88

Babu88

Six6s

Bhaggo

Elonbet

yono rummy

rummy glee

rummy perfect

rummy nabob

rummy modern

rummy wealth

jeetbuzz

iplwin

yono rummy

rummy deity

rummy app

betvisa

lotus365

hi88

8day

97win

n88

red88

king88

j88

i9bet

good88

nohu78

99ok

bet168

betvisa

satta king

satta matta matka