Friday, March 29, 2013

What's good for the goose...

A Canada Goose gander

While some Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) remained in Mid-Michigan throughout the winter, others are returning in large numbers or are stopping in the area on the way to their breeding grounds further north. 

The ones that will remain in Mid-Michigan for the breeding season have started breaking up into pairs and dispersing throughout suitable breeding territory.  This pair was foraging this morning in lawns along the Chippewa River in Mt. Pleasant.  The gander (male) is very protective of the goose (female) right now.  She was busy eating.  He was busy trying to chase away anyone that came walking down the path through the park.

Goose (left) and gander (right)
During the next few weeks, these geese and others will build nest sites near water.  Often these nests will be in an elevated location such as on top of a muskrat lodge.  The goose will then lay 1-2 eggs per day over the course of a week (the average nest is 5-6 eggs total) before she begins to incubate the eggs.  She will incubate the eggs for approximately four weeks.  Once the eggs hatch, the fuzzy yellow goslings (young) are able to walk, swim, and feed immediately.  They will rely on their parents for protection until they are able to fly.  They will feed on grasses, seeds, insects, grains, and aquatic vegetation and grow rapidly.  They will stay with their parents throughout their first year.  If the pair of adults breeds early enough they may have a second brood (or more further south) later in the season. 

Adult and partially grown goslings (2005)
There are at least 11 recognized subspecies of Canada Goose.  Their ranges cover most of North America.  They breed across Canada and Alaska, they live year round in the northern half of the United States, and winter in the southern United States and Mexico.  Geese that live further north tend to be larger than the southern subspecies.  A mature Greater Canada Goose (Branta canadensis maxima) can weigh as much as 24 pounds.  Other subspecies are smaller, with some weighing as little as 3 pounds.

A goose (female)

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