Monday Bird of the Week No.40 – Canada Goose

The birds we will be covering in the next couple of weeks may well be the most unpopular of all the birds I cover in this series. Big, noisy, messy, often classified as a pest. And it’s not even a native. Ladies and gentlemen, I gave you the Canada Goose.

This large North American goose is a regular headline maker in ‘local rag’ journalism across the UK. A quick search of Google News revealed culls, destroyed eggs, laser scarecrows, and plenty of references to bird poo.

The problem is, since they were introduced to the UK in the 1700s, they have established themselves in any suitable habitat. They are particularly fond of parks, as these often present the perfect combination of open water for protection, and plenty of grass for grazing. But all that vegetation has to come out, and long barrel-shaped goose droppings rapidly become a fact of life. In some places this renders areas of parks unsuitable for human leisure, at which point conflict is inevitable.

This conflict isn’t one-sided, and the agonistic behaviour of geese has become something of urban myth, with viral videos depicting ‘when geese attack’. Most of the time they give ample warning when they are upset, posturing and hissing to say they want you to give them space. So generally it’s people who ignore these warnings that get into trouble. A seven kilogram goose propelling itself beak-first at your head isn’t going to be fun for anyone.

Personally I think our issues with geese are because they remind us of ourselves. Big, messy, noisy? Check. Broadly monogamous? Check. Violently territorial? Check. A potentially destructive consumer? Check. The worst of what we see from Canada Geese is still no worse than the anything we manage as a species!

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I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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