Monday, June 13, 2011

The Myth of "Resident" Geese (Or, In Praise of Native, American-Born Geese)

New geese have arrived at Prospect Park within the past two weeks bringing the cited number up to 39 with one gosling.
The fact new geese have flown into Prospect Park just prior to molting suggests that Prospect Park is a likely and popular molting site for Canada geese.
There are apparently ample food supplies and the geese feel reasonably protected and "safe" for the six weeks that they shed their flight feathers and are unable to fly.
Of course, "safe" might just be an illusion.
The flightless birds are, in fact, extremely vulnerable to any clandestine 4 AM raids and roundups at the deadly hands of the USDA.  Normally, the USDA goose "culls" occur from June 15th through July 15th to coincide with the goose molting period.
Then again, we don't know what "normal" is anymore and so far, none of the agencies are talking or sending out press releases this year.
We also don't know if the new geese arriving at Prospect Park recently have actually flown there to molt or if they were simply chased and harassed from some other location.
Regardless however, this suggests that most of the 368 geese rounded up and gassed from PP last year during the molting season, were not in fact, "resident" geese, at all, but rather birds who merely flew in for six weeks to molt (or were chased there from another location.)
The likelihood is that most of the massacred geese would have left Prospect Park anyway, once their flight feathers grew in by late July or early August of last year.
Where would the geese have gone?
They would have returned to a "staging" location -- such as Harlem Meer in Central Park.
What is a "staging" location?
Normally, after raising any potential young and/or molting, the geese then leave the breeding/molting sites and return to what are called, "staging" areas.
A staging or "meet-up" site is the location where the geese meet up with other gaggles of familiar geese (in some cases, extended family members) to rest and prepare for the upcoming winter migrations.
The geese will often stay in the staging areas for up to two months, resting and eating heartily to build up fat reserves for the upcoming winter. Gradually, the geese leave the staging areas in small or large groups to fly south for the winter.
At the same time, geese from the far north (such as Canada or the Arctic) fly south to New York City or other areas in the North East to "winter" from late November through February.
In Central Park, the wintering geese from the north usually take up brief, two month "residence" in the Central Park Reservoir -- providing it does not entirely freeze over.
But, then as soon as the ice melts (late February), the migratory geese are gone, starting their long journeys back north.
All of this raises the question of what really are "resident" Canada geese?
Or, is there even such a thing as a "resident" goose?
Not, really.
The fact is, that NO goose stays in one location for the entire year (unless injured and incapable of flight).
The "resident" label has thus been falsely applied to Canada geese who, even if born in America are not "resident" to any one location for a period of more than three months.
For purposes of clarification and to differentiate geese born in other countries from those hatched in the states, it would be more accurate to refer to foreign born geese as the "wintering" or transitory geese and those hatched here as "native" geese.
All geese in fact, "migrate" in fall and spring, even if it is only moving from one state to a neighboring one.
And all geese move from breeding and/or molting locations in late summer to staging locations.
It seems use of the term, "resident" has been wrongly applied to insinuate that some geese are "lazy" and stay in one location their entire lives.
This term seems to invite hostility from many humans complaining about so-called, "resident" geese, while at the same time, claiming admiration and respect for "migratory" geese.
But, in fact, there is little, if any difference between the two types of geese with the lone exception being the countries they were originally hatched.
From that standpoint, we seem to appreciate far more, those geese born in Canada or the Arctic who winter in the states, than the geese who actually originate from here.
We advocate protection for foreign born geese, while declaring all out "war" on our native goose population!
Something seems very weird and even "un-American" in that.
What is a resident Canada goose?
No such thing any more than someone staying in an area for three months would be termed a "resident" of that location, as much as a visitor.
American born geese are simply native geese.
One would think we would value and appreciate them every bit as much, if not more so than the visiting geese from the north who "reside" here during the winter.  -- PCA

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