The Canada Goose: Is It Winter Yet?

By, Jo Carol Hebert

What is a Goose? 

You can be a ‘silly goose’- a foolish person.  You can have ‘goose bumps’- prickly skin  from being cold, nervous, or afraid.  You can have a ‘golden goose’- a chance to earn lots of money fast. And, you can go on a ‘wild goose chase’- a frantic search for something that probably doesn’t exist.

Those ‘sayings’ are called idioms that refer to the word ‘goose’ in the phrase. 

A real ‘goose’ is a big bird in the waterfowl family that is larger than a duck but smaller than a swan. With webbed feet for paddling, a goose is happy in water. With a wing span up to six feet across, a goose is happy in the air.  

And, with those webbed feet positioned farther back on the underside, a goose is happy to waddle about on land.

When a goose gets together with other goose(s), they can be a ‘flock’, a ‘chevron’, or  a ‘string’ of geese.

Geese of North America

Our Canada Goose lives near a variety of water habitats. Summer nesting grounds are in the dry Arctic tundras of the North. Wintering grounds range South to Mexico. 

Ponds, lakes, rivers, and fresh saltwater marshes, parks, and golf course greens provide temporary stopovers during migration.

They thrive on grasses/grains, and aquatic plants and insects while on the lookout for predators like foxes, bears, eagles/snowy owls, and coyotes.

See the Canada Goose?

This most common goose has a smooth, round, black head. Their long black necks are swatched with a broad white chinstrap across the throat and cheeks. Wide, tapering beaks allow them to dabble in water vegetation with serrated teeth to pull up plants. Bodies are brown with a white patch under the tail. 

See the Canada Goose Migrate?

The chill of early autumn prompts them to migrate to the warmer climates of the South. Look up! You will see them high above flying in a ’side >-shaped’ formation, which is called drafting. When the leader tires, he will drop back and another will take the >-point lead.

You will hear a cacophony (loud noise) of honking that geese make.  It will be a thrilling sight and sound that announces the coming of winter. The return trip back to nesting grounds announces Spring.

The flyways, or regular routes of the Canada Goose migration are: along the Atlantic East Coast Flyway; along the Mississippi River Flyway; across Central (Rocky Mountains Flyway); and across the Pacific (West Rockies) Flyway. 

All in the Family

The female goose will lay a clutch of 4-8 eggs. The male gander will ferociously guard his family. The yellow goslings will hatch in 3-days and can walk, and swim right away! 

They will fly at 9-weeks. The ‘Parents of the Year’ award goes to the faithful Canada Goose couple, who stay together for life.

The Canada Goose have distinct ‘calls’ that signal specific needs: long distance honks during migration, short distance calls to goslings, specific calls to females, adults in distress, gosling in distress, gosling contentment, and calls of pain.

Did You Know?

  • Geese can be wild or domesticated (tamed)
  • Types of Canada Goose are: Atlantic, Interior, Giant, Moffitt’s, Vancouver, Dusky
  • The Canada Goose can live up to 24-years
  • They can grow up to 3.5 feet long and weigh up to 18 pounds
  • They actually ‘graze’ on grasses and grains
  • A gland near tail produces oil that keeps feathers ‘water-proof’
  • An inner layer of soft feathers called ‘down’ keeps geese warm

Geese in Literature

The goose is found in stories of long ago, when rural peoples kept them for food and used the feathers to make pillows. The Mother Goose book is a familiar collection of nursery rhymes. The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg is an Aesop fable. The Goose Girl, by the Brothers Grimm, is a favorite fairy tale.

The Grumpy Goose?

Your Smarty Pants author remembers a time when I was a very little girl at the zoo: “I tried to pet a goose and he gave me a very sharp peck on my very soft little tummy. After a few tears, all was well again, and that very beautiful goose ate some bread crumbs from my hand.”

Categories: Birds

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