Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Adaptations -- The Ducks, Geese and Us

Canada goose.  In our zeal to "manage" their numbers through endless predation, do we alter their behavior and create a super adaptable bird?
"Slip, sliding away."  Domestic ducks quickly learn to adapt and navigate challenges of walking on ice.
Return of the Fair Weather Mallards

If one wasn't paying attention to weather reports or noticing temperature changes, one would know conditions are becoming more comfortable and favorable in NYC by the fact most of the mallards have returned to their familiar and regular haunts.

According to Liliana who monitors the Boat Lake in Central Park, many of the regular mallards returned during the past 24 hours and the same occurred at Harlem Mere in Central Park.

There is a reason I call them, "Fair weather mallards." 

When the going gets tough at park ponds and lakes with freezing ice, hurricanes or blizzards, the mallards leave.  As soon as conditions improve, they return.

Mallards (and geese) of course have the power of wing to take them to places more compatible with making it through the challenges of winter or severe storms. (Such as the Reservoir in Central Park.)

On the other hand, domestic ducks abandoned to city parks don't have either option or wing power to leave when conditions quickly go to hell.

They have to make up in smarts and fast adaptability what they lack in wing.

I was not sure that the four domestic ducks abandoned to Harlem Mere this past November would, in fact, be able to make it through a week of sub-freezing temperatures and a lake that literally froze over within 48 hours, quickly converting to a solid block of ice. 

But, as noted previously, one of the two other domestic ducks at the Mere (Wiggly) had survived there last winter and apparently remembered all she had learned and been taught.

Wiggly quickly assumed a leadership position, diligently working a tiny pool of open water without even taking breaks to eat and apparently showed the others what to do and how to survive.

Though initially appearing shocked and disoriented when slipping and sliding on the newly created ice, the four new domestic ducks were expertly navigating the ice like accomplished pro ice skaters within two days.

The "crash course" in learning was accomplished fully and seemingly within hours.

And now that these six domestic ducks who worked so hard to both maintain and create a large pool of open water have succeeded (and temperatures rise) the mallards again return to enjoy the fruits of others hard work.

They, and Hector the swan can now leisurely enjoy the safety and nourishment of the large pool of open water as temperatures (at least for the moment) rise in New York City.

What nature doesn't provide in brawn, she apparently provides in brain and quick adaptability.

Adaptability -- The Geese and Us

Speaking of "adaptability," it plays not only in the challenges of nature and weather, but also predation -- especially human predation.

In torpedoing various non-lethal methods of goose control in its latest contract with the city of New York, USDA Wildlife Services contends that egg addling causes resident geese to flee the states and nest in the sub-arctic, thus interfering with food supplies of migratory geese.  USDA even claimed some "200,000 resident Canada geese may be spending summer in the sub-arctic."  

Putting aside the virtual meaningless of the term "may" (I "may" have a mansion in the Bahamas, but the fact is, I don't),  this allegation contradicts almost everything else we know about "resident" geese, including other USDA claims of resident geese rarely moving more than 3 miles from original banding and homing location. 

True, resident geese might move if eggs are destroyed, but (A) isn't that what we supposedly want? and (B), why would they fly thousands of miles away and to a location they have never been?  This claim makes zero sense and appears to be a matter of USDA Wildlife Services throwing crap at the wall to see what sticks.

Nevertheless, If the above allegation is even remotely true, should we not consider that all the hunting, hazing, egg destruction and culling "pressure" we are putting on Canada geese might actually alter normal behavior and create an unusually smart, resilient and adaptable bird? 

The USDA contract further claims resident geese "breed younger than migratory geese." It cites tougher breeding conditions in the arctic responsible for that. 

But, it is more likely resident geese breed younger, simply because they HAVE to in order to "compensate" for all the human predation on them. 

This actually makes more sense in terms of what we know about other wildlife (example: coyotes) who breed more often and produce larger litters in areas they are endlessly hunted and culled.  It is the animals' response to heavy predation.  (As side note, I am not sure if the USDA claim about resident geese breeding younger is even true from what I have personally observed.  If true, it is likely in areas the geese are heavily hunted or culled and thus represents the geese's response and "compensation" to heavy predation.)

To put it mildly, the latest USDA Goose Removal Report and contract with the city of New York is highly disturbing on multiple levels, not the least of which is self-contradiction for the purposes of promoting a kill agenda.

And yet, there is one positive note in these otherwise dismal, misleading and self-promoting documents.

That is, that the contract for goose killings in NYC could be modified or canceled anytime with 90 day notice.

That is something we need to "adapt" our actions to and work to achieve. -- PCA


1 comment:

Canada Geese Removal NJ said...

Canada geese have got to be the most annoying birds in the world!