Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Canada Goose

Canada Goose - Branta canadensis 

There are at least 11 subspecies of Canada Geese and the largest is twice the size of the smallest. The largest, Branta canadensis maxima, nests in the prairie wetlands and the smaller races nest further north. 
Inglewood March 24, 2013        
Nests are mostly on the ground by water, but more interesting locations include old Osprey nests on poles and the tops of Muskrat and Beaver lodges. 

Canada Geese mate for life and survival is recorded for up to 28 years. Every spring, after scouting out a satisfactory nesting site, our local geese build a nest and lay eggs in April and May. The average clutch is 5 to 6 eggs (range 2 to 11). The nest is lined with down. The mother sits on the nest while the father stands guard and the goslings hatch about a month later (25 to 30 days). The young birds fly by about 9 weeks and remain with the parents until the following spring.

I came upon the clutch above last year during the first week of May. The nest was built among some low shrubs on a ledge above the Elbow River. I was unaware of the nest until I was about 10 meters away. The Mother goose and I startled each other and we both flew. I flew several inches straight up and the Mother flew to the other side of the river. I took a few quick photos and left, and for the rest of the season, I avoided the site.

There is a stone nestled in the center of the eggs. I suspect the stone is a heat sink and helps maintain the temperature. During cold winter nights on the prairies, the settlers heated up a stone on the fire place and placed the stone under the blankets at the foot of the bed to keep their feet warm. Perhaps they learned this from the Geese? 
Geese are great dry land walkers. Their legs are positioned in the  middle of the body to facilitate walking on land. Their bill is suited for clipping grasses and eating seeds on the ground.

The goose in the two photos above was in Mallard Cove, off the Elbow River, on April 22, 2013. There have been two geese in the cove on most occasions since, but I have not spotted a nest.


The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Alberta. 
Federation of Alberta Naturalists. 2007.

Baicich PJ, Harrison CJO. Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds. Princeton UP. 2005

Fisher C, Acorn J. Birds of Alberta. Lone Pine Publishing. Edmonton. 1998

Sibley David A. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior. Alfred A Knopf, Inc. New York. 2001.

Tudge Colin. The Bird. Crown Publishers. New York. 2008

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