BRINGS QUESTIONS ABOUT GEESE
checked with experts Bobby Kennamer and Carol Eldridge who conduct research
on waterfowl at the Savannah River Ecology Lab to get answers to these
very similar questions I received last week.
I live in Atlanta and twice this autumn I have seen flocks of geese
flying north. Do you have any idea why the geese would be headed in
the "wrong" direction?
We see geese flying very low over our neighborhood, sometimes early
in the morning, sometimes in the late afternoon. We don't see them every
day, but we do see them often. There have been as many as a couple of
dozen (flying in the classic V) and as few as three (in a straight line).
Because they are flying so low, they don't seem to be migrating. We
live in Tuscaloosa, Ala., about a mile from a lake. Do you think the
geese are likely to spend the winter here? If so, where do you think
they are flying to (or from) when we see them?
Most Canada geese seen in Georgia and Alabama, as well as in the Carolinas
and elsewhere in the Southeast, are year-round residents that do not
migrate at all.
to spend the night on the still water of a reservoir, lake, or pond,
but because they eat grass, they forage during the day on grassy expanses,
including golf courses and parks.
these resident, nonmigratory geese simply fly back and forth between
foraging locations and roosting sites. Therefore, they could be flying
in any direction, and the distances they travel daily could be just
a few miles or up to a hundred miles or more.
to several years ago, when Canada geese were prevalent in the South
mainly during winter, these resident, nonmigratory ones can now be seen
every month of the year. They are often seen in small flocks, flying
in the V formation we associate with waterfowl.
a squadron of wild geese coming in for a landing on a lake at sunset
can be a magnificent sight, but wild goose behavior also has some negative
aspects. For several years, the wildlife departments in southern states
have been faced with the consequences of overpopulation of resident
the problems is overgrazing on agricultural fields, lawns, and golf
courses. The droppings left by these large birds make the geese particularly
unpopular visitors to golf greens and fairways.
geese are considered such a nuisance in some areas that the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service allows states to issue permits making it legal
to kill the developing eggs in a nest.
geese are the most familiar of the more than a dozen kinds of geese
found in the world. Several are native to the United States, with the
Canada goose and snow goose commonly being seen in great numbers.
range far into northern Canada during summer and migrate as far south
as Mexico in winter. Like the Canada goose, snow geese can be found
from coast to coast but with a patchier distribution pattern.
goose, which is familiar to hunters and bird enthusiasts, is a dark-colored
genetic variant of the snow goose.
state bird is a distinctive species known as the nene (pronounced "nay
nay"). Based on research involving DNA analyses, the nene's closest
relative genetically is the Canada goose.
a migrating flock ended up in the Hawaiian islands half a million years
ago and decided these new surroundings were nicer than the cold north.
Isolated from the mainland for eons, these geese eventually evolved
into the new species, which does not migrate.
United States now has its own resident goose populations as well, so
we may as well welcome them as part of the native fauna.
that a documented record exists of a wild Canada goose living more than
30 years, we should assume they will be around indefinitely.
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