Geese in the Bergenias by Dr. Lee Foote

 

Garden dwellers

The Canada Geese are back in the University of Alberta Botanic Garden; we have at least three successful nests on the UABG this year.  One in the Grebe wetland, one in the Imrie wetland and one in the Kurimoto Japanese Garden.   They are a mixed blessing too.  

Alberta Wildlife

Albertans are now overwhelmed with urban wildlife and we may as well get used to the goose invasion in our gardens, golf course and even on top of our buildings in downtown Edmonton.  Twenty years ago, geese nesting in towns and developed spaces was relatively rare but now it is commonplace. So how did this come to pass?  The urban goose uprising sort of sneaked up on us but we should not have been surprised.  The same thing happened in Denver, Colorado, Saint Louis, Missouri, and Madison, Wisconsin over a decade ago, where they had geese attacking children, airplanes re-routed, and goose-removal issues.  We have had all three of these things happen in Edmonton last year, including a couple of aggressive geese in the UABG.

Increase in Population

A few things changed to allow this goose influx.  According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, since 1970, Canada Goose numbers in our Great Plains region have increased from around 120 thousand to almost 2 million. That is a 13-fold increase in less than 50 years.  

Impressionable Young

In our case, the incidence of garden-nesting geese also has an animal behavior component to it.  When geese hatch, they are very impressionable, learning every little nuance of their parents’ appearance and sound. This is important because for the next eight months they need to follow their parents through storms, darkness and swirling winter flocks numbering in the tens of thousands.  Goslings must be good observers and they also seem to pay attention to their very brief stay in their nesting situation.   They note the nest in which they were hatched and 2-3 years later when it is time for them to select a nest site, they usually chose a similar setting in the same general area as their parents did. This love of home place is called “philopatry”; it is the return to the place they know to work well.