Friday, April 8, 2011

Bonding and Memory of Canada Geese

(Photos:  Love forever in Bloom;  Papa and Mama goose.  One of the grown goslings greeting me yesterday.) 
Those who know anything at all about Canada geese are aware of their utter devotion and protection towards mates, their young and each other as a species.
These birds mate for life and their young goslings remain with the parents for a full year and sometimes longer. 
But, how many of us are aware that the geese can also bond with humans and that they apparently have very keen memory on who their human friends are?
This news article from yesterday about a man who rescued an orphaned gosling last year who has now returned to him this year with her mate:
But, even an ordinary person like myself who has simply been observing geese over the course of a few years can experience bonding and memory from the geese.
As reported here a few weeks ago, the family of geese returned to Turtle Pond recently (Mama, Papa and their five juvenile goslings born last May).
When I first saw them shortly after their return, both the parent geese and goslings remembered and sauntered right up to me.  Two of the goslings confidently ate from my hand.
They did not, however, approach the person I was with at that time, nor other people passing by.
The same occurred yesterday.
The goslings who are now relegated to the eastern half of Turtle Pond (along with another young gaggle of geese) immediately walk or swim towards me when I approach.  However, the other geese they are with, do not.  
When saying all the youngsters are "relegated" to the eastern portion of the pond, that is due to the parent geese who have reclaimed the area near Belvedere Castle and the rock formations as their own (Western portion of the pond).
When the family first returned back, they were all together.
Since then, however, (as the goslings approach their first birthday), the parent geese have forced them to grow up and become more independent.
The first few days (or weeks?) of this "pushing out of the nest" were a little brutal with Papa goose repeatedly going after, cuffing and physically chasing away his own goslings and other geese.
However, yesterday, matters appeared peaceful.
It seems all the youngsters know now there is an invisible line across half the pond. Neither they, nor their companions dare to cross that line at any point.   Should they err in this, it is presumed Papa goose will once again remind them not so gently, of the consequences of over stepping boundaries and who is boss at Turtle Pond.
The rules are very much established now and all the younger geese respect them.  As noted a few days ago, if the geese have higher than normal survival rates for a species, it is due to their complex communications with each other, their organization, routines, cooperation and long established rules of order and family tradition. 
They are incredible animals.
Like their goslings, Mama and Papa goose also immediately recognize my dogs and me.
When first walking on the small pier of the pond yesterday, Mama and Papa goose were sunning themselves on the small rocks nearby. But, as soon as they saw me, they left the rocks and came swimming over as if in greeting. 
After greeting them, ("Hi Mommy!  Hi Daddy!") I took some photos, tossed a few seeds to them and left. 
And while there were a few other people on the pier, the parent geese left when I did and returned to their rock.
It was all very sweet. 
Still, what perhaps is most impressive in all this, is how the goslings remember me!
After all, they were only a few months old, when growing their wings and then leaving with their parents from Turtle Pond in early August of last year.
How I wanted to ask them yesterday (or Mama and Papa goose) where they spent the rest of the summer, as well as the fall and winter?
I did see the family at Harlem Meer a few times during the late summer, but I don't know where they went once the fall arrived and the cold weather set in. 
Did they fly south over the winter or did they just move to the Reservoir (which maintained some open water) and brave through the cold and snow?
Ah, the stories (and adventures or hardships) the geese could tell us if only we could understand their language and vice versa!
For all that I know and have learned about geese, I realize I know nothing at all.
But, for sure, what IS known is that yes, Canada geese are very capable of bonding and remembering people and I am one very blessed human being to have experienced that -- not with just one or two geese, but in fact, many.  -- PCA

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