The Canada Goose Essay Research Paper The

The Canada Goose Essay, Research Paper The Canada Goose The Branta Canadensis, better known as the Canada Goose is a magnificent bird which can be found all over North America. People from all over North

The Canada Goose Essay, Research Paper

The Canada Goose

The Branta Canadensis, better known as the Canada Goose is a magnificent

bird which can be found all over North America. People from all over North

America look towards the sky when the Canada Geese go honking overhead in their

trademark “V” formation, and because they nest all over Canada and some of the

United States many people have a chance to witness the birds migration to the

nesting grounds and back to the wintering grounds. The Canada Goose is

respected by so many of us because of it’s dignity and courage and refusal to

give up. Over the years the Canada Goose has picked up many slang names, some

of these are: Canadian Goose, Canadian Honker, Honker, Honker Goose, Big Honker,

Old Honker, Boy Goose, Bernache (French for Barnacle Goose), Big Mexican Goose,

Blackee, Blacknecked Goose, Brant, French Goose, Northern Goose, Reef Goose,

Ringneck, Wavy, and White-cheeked Goose (Wormer).

The Canada Goose has excellent eyesight which makes it difficult to hunt

because the Goose can see the hunter well before the hunter ever sees the goose

(Wormer). This eyesight is essential for flying though, a Canada Goose can see

three quarters of a sphere without moving its head (Wormer). The Canada Goose

also has an acute sense of hearing, it’s ears are positioned on the side of it’s

head (Wormer). They have either no sense of smell or a very poor one, but this

does not impede the goose in any way (Wormer). Although there is a large

variation in size all subspecies of Canada Geese look the same physically

(Wormer) The male and female Canada Goose look almost exactly the same except

the female can usually be recognized because it is smaller and less aggressive

(Wormer). Colors also vary but, the color pattern is generally the same for all

the subspecies (Godfrey). The head and neck are dark black with a large white

patch on each cheek which meet under the chin, this is the Canada Goose’s most

easily recognized characteristic because it is unique to the Canada Goose

(Wormer). The upper parts of the body as well as the wings are greyish brown,

the feathers tipped with brownish white (Godfrey). The tail is black with the

upper tail coverts white and the under tail coverts are white also (Godfrey).

The under body is brownish grey with paler feather tips, the sides being the

darkest and the lower belly is white (Godfrey). The feathers of the breast

commonly called down are broad and square tipped (Godfrey). The bill and legs

are dark black, and the iris of the eye is brown with a black pupil (Wormer).

The Canada Goose in it’s first Autumn and Winter is similar to the adults but

breast feathers are narrower, softer and more rounded, the outer primaries on

the other hand are less rounded than those of a mature adult (Godfrey). The

Canada Goose color pattern works as a great disguise, when lying flat with the

neck outstretched the Canada Goose looks like a clump of grass and dirt and

difficult to distinguish as a goose even on snow or ice (Wormer). All goslings

of all subspecies of the Canada Goose look identical (Breen). Goslings are

bright yellow and weigh less than one pound when hatched, after two weeks they

way two pounds, after one month their weight is three to four pounds and their

color is a dull grey, after six weeks a color pattern can be seen and

inclination to fly i.e.. running on top of the water flapping it’s wings, after

eight weeks they look like adult and weigh six to seven pounds and some are able

to fly others begin to fly in their ninth week, further growth depends on the

subspecies (Breen). There are eleven subspecies of the Canada Goose but the

characteristics that separate them usually cannot be seen from a distance

(Wormer). Branta Canadensis Minima, also known as the Cackling Canada Goose is

the smallest of all subspecies weighing only two and a half to four pounds

(Wormer). It is the darkest in color and has the highest pitch call (Wormer).

Branta Canadensis Hutchinsii, also known as the Richardson Canada Goose weighs

three to seven pounds and is light in color, it’s call has a pitch slightly

deeper than that of the Cackling Canada Goose (Wormer). Branta Canadensis

taverneri, also known as Taverner’s Canada Goose weighs three and a half to five

pounds and is dark in color (Wormer). Branta Canadensis leucopareia, also known

as the Aleutian Canada Goose also weighs three and a half pounds and is

identical to Taverner’s Canada Goose except it has a narrow white ring

separating the black neck from the dark grey-brown body (Wormer). Branta

Canadensis Parvipes, also known as the Lesser Canada Goose weighs six pounds and

is light colored (Wormer). Branta Canadensis Occidentalis, also known as the

Dusky Canada Goose Weighs five to twelve pounds and is dark brown almost

chocolate covered (Wormer). Branta Canadensis, also known as the Atlantic

Canada Goose weighs six to eleven pounds and is light colored (Wormer). Branta

Canadensis Interior, also known as Todd’s Canada Goose also weighs six to eleven

pounds and is medium colored (Wormer). Branta Canadensis Moffiti, also known as

the Western Canada Goose weighs twelve to fifteen pounds and is medium colored

(Wormer). Branta Canadensis Fulva, also known as the Vancouver Canada Goose

weighs six to thirteen pounds and is dark in color, ninety percent of this

species do not migrate and live in British Columbia all year round (Wormer).

Branta Canadensis Maxima, also known as the Giant Canada Goose is said to be the

most beautiful of all the subspecies but it is known that they are the most

easily domesticated (Wormer). Giant Canadas Weigh eighteen to twenty pounds and

are medium colored. Their diagnostic feature is that there is a small backward

projecting hook on the white cheek patch (Wormer). The Canada Goose has ten

vocalizations or calls which it uses to communicate with other Canada Geese,

honking, long distance call, greeting, alarm, short distance call of mate, short

distance call to goslings, special greeting for female, adult distress, gosling

distress, and gosling contentment call as well as a scream of pain when the bird

is bitten (Wormer).

It takes a female goose a day to a day and half to lay an egg (Wormer).

Each goose lays and average of five to six eggs, sometimes only two and

sometimes one goose may lay eleven to twelve eggs (Wormer). With sixty percent

of all eggs laid hatching tow Canada Geese produce an average of three goslings

per year (Wormer). Male to Female births are split down the middle, 50-50

(Wormer). The eggs are dull white and 2.86 by 1.89 inches to 3.43 by 2.34

inches (Godfrey) and weigh 3.5 to 7.5 ounces (Breen). The incubation period

lasts twenty five to twenty eight days with an average incubation temperature of

100.4 degrees Fahrenheit to 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit (Wormer). Most of the

Canada Geese killed from hunting are twelve to twenty-three years old (Wormer).

Canada Geese in captivity however live an aver age of twenty to thirty years and

sometimes even over forty (Wormer). The Canada Goose has a very rapid growth

rate, in fact if an average human baby were to grow as fast as a gosling it

would weigh one-hundred and thirty-eight pounds by the time it was eight weeks

old (Wormer). Goslings begin to develop feathers after their third week and

after their fifth week the feather are the color of and adults (Breen). The

adult geese begin molting when the goslings are two weeks old and is unable to

fly for five to six weeks (Breen). After the molting period the goslings are

eight to nine weeks old and are ready to fly with their parents (Breen).

The Canada Goose has two types of habitat, breeding grounds, and

Wintering grounds (Ross). Canada Gees migrate north to their breeding grounds

and south to their wintering grounds (Ross). During migration north and south

the geese follow four main flyways, Atlantic flyway, Pacific Flyway, Mississippi

Flyway and the Central Flyway (Breen). Within these flyways are migration

corridors (refer to maps 1 and 2), biologists are not sure how they follow the

same corridor year after year (Breen). There are three main theories of how a

Canada Goose navigates to the same breeding and wintering grounds each migration

(Breen). One theory is that they rely on landscape cues, another theory is that

they use the position of the sun and stars, and the third theory is that they

have iron rich tissue in their brains, like that of a pigeon and they use the

earth’s magnetic field to navigate, but exactly how Canada Geese navigate is

unknown (Breen). Some ducks may fly as fast as eighty miles per hour but the

Canada Goose flies at a much more graceful speed of forty-two to forty-five

miles per hour during migration and can fly as fast as sixty miles per hour.

Canada Geese always take off into the wind and usually fly at an altitude

between one thousand and three thousand feet but in bad weather will fly as low

as a couple hundred feet and when traveling over short distance they prefer

walking because it uses less energy (Breen). When in flying in flocks Canada

Geese fly in their trademark “V” formation, this formation is created because

each goose flies behind and to the side of the goose in front of it allows them

to take advantage of the slipstream created, this technique is known to

automobile racers as drafting and it lets the Canada Goose fly seventy-one

percent further than just going by itself (Breen). Another skill Canada Geese

use to land in heavy wind is wiffeling, to do this the goose turns its body

sideways so that it’s wings are perpendicular to the ground, the bird loses it’s

left and basically falls out of the sky, this technique is known to glider

pilots as side slipping because you slip out of the sky (Breen). Most people

believe that the migration north and the migration south are the same but

actually they are different (Breen). The migration north to the breeding

grounds is a slower and more relaxed one than that of the one moving south

(Wormer). The migration north sometimes begins in late January for Canada Geese

that are wintering far south, but the majority of movement occurs in March

(Resource Reader). The female chooses the breeding grounds and nesting site,

the breeding grounds are those of which she was hatched (Breen). Ideal breeding

grounds have the following characteristics: Browsing area for prior to nesting

season, firm foundations, excellent visibility in all directions, isolated,

brooding area of open water, aquatic feeding area, cover of emergent plants for

protection during molting, and a browsing area for brood after they learn to fly

(Wormer). Some areas with these characteristics are: swamps, marshes, meadows,

rivers, lakes, ponds, islands, Tundra and coastal plain (Wormer). Preferred

places to build the nest are small islets, muskrat houses, other birds abandoned

or sometimes unabandoned nests, in the case where the nest is still occupied the

female goose will incubate the other birds eggs as well as her own. Canada

Geese especially the Giant Canada will also use man made nests like washtubs,

old tires and haystacks (Wormer). Nest size varies from four inches deep by ten

inches wide to fifteen inches deep and forty-four inches wide (Wormer). After

the female has chosen the breeding grounds, nesting site and built the nest the

male guards while she incubates the eggs (Wormer). Canada Geese breed all over

Canada and in ideal breeding areas there may be many geese per acre but some

territories may be as much as thirty five acres (Wormer) (See maps 1 and 2 for

breeding areas and densities of geese). The migration south to the wintering

grounds is a much faster paced migration than the one north and done in much

larger flocks (Breen). Each flock usually consists of a group of families

(Breen). October and mid-November is when the greatest numbers of Canada Geese

can be seen moving south (Resource Reader). Popular wintering grounds have a

good food supply, suitable resting grounds near a lake, river or resivoir, the

body of water should be large and have low banks or shorelines for loafing and

the climate should not be to cold (Wormer). It is often on the wintering

grounds that the geese choose their mate whom they will pair with for life,

unless one is killed (Obee). Some Canada Geese migrate as far as Mexico, others

stop further north, some don’t migrate at all and some even migrate across the

ocean to Japan (Ross) (Refer to maps 1 and 2 for wintering areas and densities

of geese).

Canada Geese like to feed mid-morning and just before sunset leaving the

mid-day for relaxing. Canada Geese graze cord grass, spike rush, naiad,

glasswort, bullrush, salt grass, seepweed, Bermuda grass, golden dock, lycium,

brome grass, wild barley, rabbit-foot grass, pepper grass, saltbush, cattail,

alkali grass, and tansy mustard (Wormer). They will eat Ladino or Dutch white

clover if it is mixed with other grasses that the goose normally eats, they will

not eat alfalfa unless it is young and tender (Wormer). Canada Geese also feed

on all human grown grains but their favorite of all foods is corn (Breen). The

most popular foods are, corn which forty three percent of geese feed on, small

grain fed on by twenty four percent of geese, twenty two percent feed on pasture,

and soybeans accounts for the other nine percent (Breen). Apart from dry land

grazing Canada Geese also feed on some aquatic growth (Wormer). Canada Geese

are mostly vegetarian but they do feed on some small insects, insect larvae,

mollusks and small crustaceans (Wormer).

Dogs will chase and kill Canada Geese for fun and coyotes and wolves

will also kill Canada Geese for food, but most of the time geese are much to

fast for land mammals unless they are hurt or wounded or it is during molting

season (Wormer). Molting season is the most dangerous time of the Canada

Goose’s life because it cannot fly, however even without their flight feathers a

Canada Goose can still outrun a man over land and may even be able to fight of

an attacker with strong blows from it’s wings and using it’s beak as a weapon

(Breen). Humans are the largest predator of the Canada Goose (Wormer). However

due to strict management of hunting of Canada Geese the population has not been

decreased by hunting (Wormer). In 1995 Goose hunting season for North Game Bird

District opened on September first and closed December ninth with a bag limit of

nine daily which not more than six may be dark geese and of these not more than

four may be whitefronts (Wiens). In the South Game Bird District of

Saskatchewan the season for goose hunting opened on September eleventh and also

closed on December ninth with a bag limit of eighteen of which not more than

twelve may be dark geese and of these not more than six may be whitefronts

(Wiens).

Parasites are not responsible for to many adult goose deaths but they do

cause some (Wormer). Most of the damage parasites do is killing goslings two to

three days old (Wormer). Some internal parasites of Canada Geese include both

worm and blood parasites (Wormer). Externally the Canada Goose also has various

kinds of lice (Wormer).

Some times a female Canada Goose will nest in a nest that has already

been made by an eagle or hawk and may still be occupied (Wormer). If the nest

contains the eggs of the bird who built the nest the female Canada Goose will

incubate the other birds eggs as well as her own (Wormer). This benefits both

birds because it leaves the other bird more time to rest and eat and the Canada

Goose gets to use a nest (Wormer). Canada Geese frequently nest on top of

muskrat houses because they are on open water where the eggs are safe from other

birds and foxes, this does not disturb the muskrat in any way (Wormer). The

Canada Goose will also nest in an abandoned nest of a hawk, eagle or other large

bird (Wormer). There have been cases reported of small songbirds seen riding on

the backs of Canada Geese on their migration route or hunters who have shot a

goose and found a smaller bird tucked away in it’s feathers, However there is no

scientific documentation of this (Breen).

The Canada Goose’s largest competition is usually other Canada Geese

(Wormer). Canada Geese do not mind if other waterfowl such as ducks are nesting

nearby but they will fight other Canada Geese for their territory if it is

necessary (Wormer). It is important that Canada Geese do not build nests to

close together because when the goslings are first hatched they cannot recognize

their parents nor can their parents recognize them and the goslings can become

easily mixed up and follow a different set of parents (Wormer).

Humans have had a strong effect on the population of the Canada Goose,

good and bad effects. Agricultural waste water kills many geese each year

another human waste that kills geese is when they ingest spent ammunition with

gravel, the geese die of lead poisoning and it is a very painful death and more

common than most people think (Wormer). Urban growth, industry and draining

land for farming contribute to the four hundred thousand acres of wetland lost

each year in the United States which has had a tremendous effect on some

waterfowl, however this does not directly effect the Canada Goose’s birth rate

because most Canada Geese breed far enough north that they are isolated from

progress (Breen). The disappearing of wetlands does effect them indirectly

though because they are used for resting and feeding along the migration route

and are important for safety (Breen). Nesting sites in the north aren’t totally

safe from humans though, the Exxon oil spill has damaged Canada Goose habitat

(Breen). Plans to dam the Yukon River could also ruin the nesting grounds for

over two hundred thousand Canada Geese (Breen).

The number of people who are trying to protect wetlands has become quite

large (Breen). The largest and best known group is probably Ducks Unlimited

Canada which was founded in 1937 and has over one-hundred thousand members most

of which are hunters (Breen). In 1973 it expanded into the United States which

now has over five-hundred and fifty thousand members also which are mostly

hunters and one year after in 1974 Ducks Unlimited de Mexico joined the other

two groups in wetland protection (Breen). Since their founding Ducks Unlimited

have raised nearly one half billion dollars ninety three percent of which has

been invested in projects to aid waterfowl such as the Canada Goose (Breen).

As long as the Canada Goose’s private northern breeding grounds are not

disturbed this magnificent bird should be with us a long time. For most people

the Canada Goose symbolizes autumn when we see them gracefully soaring through

the air to their warm winter home and they also symbolize spring time when they

come back from their winter home. The Canada Goose is a bird with dignity and

pride and is a bird that is loved by all who see and hear it.

Western Canada, moffiti68 000 Dusky Canada, occidentalis16 000

Vancouver Canada, fulva14 000 Todd’s Canada, interior/Atlantic Canada,

Canadensis1 000 000 Giant Canada, Maxima55 000 Cackling Canada, Minima

172 000 Aleutian Canada, leucopareiaremnant Taverner’s Canada, Taverneri

57 000 Lesser Canada, Parvipes/Richardson’s Canada, Hutchinsii300 000 Total

estimated population of Canada Geese1 682 000