Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Magnanimous Canada Geese -- No Refugee Turned Away


Magnanimous and peaceful Canada geese. If a bird be in trouble, these are the protectors to seek out.
"Woodie" the Wood duck, who is for now, a goose.
Woodie in far right of photo, swimming with the geese.
 
There are not many animal species (including our own) who easily tolerate other non-related "refugees"  tagging along and mixing into their group. But, Canada geese are one.
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For the past several weeks, I have been observing a solitary Wood duck who apparently lost his flock or mate. He has been tagging along and staying with a gaggle of ten Canada geese at the Central Park Reservoir.
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While not exactly rolling out the red carpet for the colorful, but sometimes pesky newcomer, the geese nevertheless tolerate his presence.  
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This may seem unusual behavior, but it is not for Canada geese.
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There are many documented instances of geese accepting other birds into their family groups, the article below simply being the latest:
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Geese are quite magnanimous towards other birds who, for whatever reason, have become lost or separated from their flocks.
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During last year's brutal winter for example, there was another female Wood duck ("Willow") who sought refuge and protection among the dozens of Canada geese who stuck it out on the 99% iced over watercourse.
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Willow could often be seen huddled down closely next to the geese on the frozen ice. For their part, the geese never bothered Willow or attempted to chase her away. Perhaps they even had sympathy for the lone woodie's plight. Mallards on the other hand, weren't always so charitable towards Willow. Rather, they competed with her for food and usually won. I personally don't think Willow would have survived were it not for the acceptance and protection of the geese.
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The little Wood drake ("Woodie") I am seeing now is, like Willow, quite feisty and clever.  He often dives under the water and then pops up quickly to grab food that the geese otherwise miss. The geese are obviously annoyed with the "thievery," but other than a symbolic peck or two, they put up with Woody's shenanigans. As noted, the geese are quite magnanimous -- and charitable to boot. Sympathy for wayward refugees apparently goes a long way with them -- even to the point of sharing food.
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And it is not only lone or lost birds who apparently seek out geese for comfort and companionship, but sometimes injured ones as well.
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Last summer, for example, there was an injured Herring Gull at the Reservoir. "Harry" had temporarily hurt one of his wings and was unable to fly out with the other gulls in the evenings.
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So, for the week or so that Harry was compromised and healing, he too, sought out and hung with the family of geese who were typically at the east side of the Reservoir.
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Even though the goose family had four young goslings, they were not particularly perturbed by Harry's presence as long as he kept respectable distance from the babies.
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When Harry's wing finally healed, he took off flying to join the other gulls in the middle of the Reservoir. But, I bet he was damn grateful to have the safe sanctuary of the geese for that one week.
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Things don't usually work out well for injured flock birds on a watercourse as such is a sure calling card for predators, such as hawks.
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There are in fact, many birds of different types and species who should be grateful to Canada geese for their accepting and magnanimous ways.
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"If you're lost or in trouble, seek out a clan of those noisy and cantankerous geese." as the bird mantra evidently goes.  
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"Their honks are much worse than their bites!"   -- PCA
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6 comments:

Betty Butler said...

A wonderful read! Very interesting and informative. So good to read a positive on the very special wonderful Canada geese.
Appreciate them and keep them flying not dying!
Many thanks for this.
Betty Butler

PCA said...

Thank you so much, Betty for your warm words and support of our much maligned geese.

This morning, a bird rehabber told me about a duckling observed a few months ago at Prospect Park who was being protected and watched over by a gaggle of geese. I knew geese readily adopt goslings who are not their own, but didn't know they also "adopt" orphaned ducklings! :)

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