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FEATHER TALK
CANADA GOOSE

Sometimes large numbers of goose flight feathers will appear along a marshland dyke. The Canada Goose, along with most waterfowl species, molt all of their flight feathers at once resulting in a short flightless condition. This strategy would be very detrimental to most birds as they would not be able to obtain food, or escape predators. However, waterfowl can continue to feed in the marshlands and avoid predators by remaining in the water, or disappearing in heavy bulrush or cattail cover. Then all their flight feathers are fresh and strong for a long fall migration.

Hearing the words "goose" and "migration" starts me off on another story. When I was young, many decades ago, we only saw geese when they were migrating overhead in the spring and fall. In fact, we usually heard their exciting honking long before the V’s of geese were spotted overhead. The Canada Goose is a prime example of how some species can adapt to new habitat circumstances in a relatively short period of time. Humans moved in and planted crops and designed parks with water fountains that remained unfrozen all winter. Geese ate the crops and utilized the “open” water in the urban parks all year long. For these birds, no reason existed to expend the enormous amount of energy for a long migration each spring and fall. I suspect their offspring are now incapable of a successful migration.

We complain about the mess left on our golf courses and in our urban parks by geese who have adapted so well to what we have provided. However, I suspect the complaints would become much louder if our elected officials proposed to harvest these surplus birds and sell them as human food.


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