High Desert Bird of the Month
The big, black-necked Canada Goose with its signature white chinstrap mark is a familiar and widespread bird of fields and parks. Thousands of these geese migrate north and south each year, filling the sky with long V-formations. But as urban lawns have become the norm, more and more of these grassland-adapted birds are staying put in urban and suburban areas year-round, where some people regard them as pests.
Some populations of the Canada Goose are not going as far south in the winter as they used to. This northward range shift has been attributed to changes in farm practices that makes waste grain more available in fall and winter, as well as changes in hunting pressure and changes in weather.
Extremely successful at living in human-altered areas, Canada geese have proven able to establish breeding colonies in urban and cultivated areas, which provide food and few natural predators. The success of this common park species has led to its often being considered a pest species because of their depredation of crops and their noise, droppings, aggressive territorial behavior, and habit of begging for food (caused by human hand feeding).
During summer, Canada Geese are fairly easy to see in the waterways and grasslands of the Reno/Sparks areas, swimming in open water, resting near shore, or grazing on lawns or farm fields. They are often heard flying above, by day or night; if you study their honks you may notice the difference by sound when other species of geese or swans are flying.
Canada geese are primarily herbivores, although they sometimes eat small insects and fish. Their diet includes green vegetation and grains. The Canada goose eats a variety of grasses when on land. It feeds by grasping a blade of grass with the bill, then tearing it with a jerk of the head. The Canada goose also eats beans and grains such as wheat, rice, and corn when they are available. In the water, it feeds from aquatic plants by sliding its bill at the bottom of the body of water. It also feeds on aquatic plants, such as seaweeds. In urban areas, it is also known to pick food out of garbage bins. They are also sometimes hand-fed a variety of grains and other foods by humans in parks.
Some interesting facts about the Canada Goose are that these geese have very good eyesight. They can see more than 180 degrees horizontally and vertically which is very useful during flight and have mostly monocular vision. Also, Canadian geese have a large lifespan. As an extreme, some can live up to twenty four years in the wild. However, most die within the first year of their life because of predators.
Additional information on the Canada Goose or backyard birds can be obtained at Wild Birds Unlimited inside all Moana Nursery locations in Reno and Sparks.