Nature notes: Canada geese family rearing

Published 5:25 pm Friday, March 29, 2024

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By Kendalynn Ross

Teacher/Naturalist Intern

A month ago, V-shaped flocks peppered our skies. With their populations increasing fast in the Midwest, Canada geese return to their birthplaces every spring to nest and create new families. April brings about their nesting activities, as well as the first of the season’s goslings (baby geese).

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Canada geese tend to always choose a nest site within 150 feet of water, with concealment from predators being ideal. The female usually has the final say on the nest, building it herself out of sticks, leaves, and some of her own feathers. When the nesting site has been built, both mates will defend it. Each day, the female goose will lay one egg until she has a clutch ranging from 2-12 eggs.

Then, the female will stay at the nest, incubating them for 28 days as the male guards her. Once the eggs hatch, the adult pair will wait about 24 hours before leading them away from the nest. Both adults will defend their broods for 10-12 weeks, until they are able to fly at 70 days old.

Geese are very open to adoption, especially where goose populations are dense. In fact, geese may adopt several groups of goslings, forming what is coined “gang broods.” Gang broods range from 20 to 100 goslings. They only have a few adults though, usually less than four. When this involves friendly parent pairs, it can be thought of as cooperative, as this ensures there is always at least one adult goose near the goslings for protection while the others are free to forage.

However, sometime this is hostile, with geese pairs being aggressive and stealing goslings away from weaker parents to pad their own brood. The thieving pair’s original goslings stay closer to them, allowing the stolen goslings to be easier prey to predators. In this way, this better ensures the survival of their original brood to adulthood.

Surviving goslings will stay with their parents for their first year, and sometimes even their second. As they mature, they will become more social, gathering to feed in large numbers when food is plentiful. Once they are around three years old, they begin to pair off, finding mates of their own.

So next time you start to be annoyed with all the honking and geese poop that April brings to the nature center, remember that soon enough, there will be plenty of cute goslings to make it all worthwhile!

Nature Center Events

Monday: Registration for summer classes begins online, 9 a.m.

April 6: Eclipse Special Planetarium Open House, 1-3:40 p.m.

April 8: Eclipse viewing Open House, 12:30-2:30 p.m.

April 12: Cedar River Astronomy Club – All Welcome, 7-8 p.m.

April 19: American Red Cross Blood Drive in Ruby Rupner Auditorium, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

April 20: Free naturalist led walk, 10-11 a.m.

April 27: Friends and Volunteer Appreciation Event: Sparky Stensaas, 1:30-3 p.m.

April 27: Sola Fide Observatory Open House, 9-11 a.m.