Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Nesting an Arduous and Sometimes Dangerous Process for Canada Geese


John maintains close guard to Mary's nest last night following close encounter with raccoon.
This raccoon was soon forced into water and sent packing by geese defending their nest.

And so the arduous and challenging process begins. Again.

Hansel, Greta, John and Mary have all returned to the exact nesting spots as last spring and both hens are now sitting on eggs. They will remain constantly on their nests for approximately 28 days and lose up to 25% of their body weight. This is why nesting Canada geese hens have to eat heartily before actual nesting begins. It is a grueling process that takes much out of them.

But the nesting process is no less taxing for their ganders who have to maintain 24/7 vigilance and protection of their mates. Both, John and Hansel constantly patrol the water day and night, keeping potential threats away. As night falls, the ganders take position closer to the nests to guard against roving raccoons as both, hens and ganders defend their eggs.

Although it is claimed that raccoons pose the biggest threats to steal goose eggs in Central Park, the geese are particularly alert to and prepared for the potential theft.

More than once I have personally observed nesting geese aggressively stand up to raccoons and in one case a few years ago, actually attack a raccoon pair who appeared to be merely out for a romantic stroll. No one was  hurt, though one of the raccoons sported a welt on his back the next day.

Another raccoon encounter occurred last night:

It was dark. I don't have a quick or high tech camera and tall reeds obscured most of the action. But a raccoon wandered too close to John and Mary's nest. John immediately bolted from the water to confront the raccoon. John made himself tall, vigorously flapped wings and at one point, actually pushed or forced the raccoon into the water. (Raccoons are excellent swimmers.) The raccoon finally ran away, but John still maintained close position to the nest -- which is when I snapped the photo. 

It is thus, either a foolish or desperate raccoon who is brazen enough to mess with nesting Canada geese. Central Park raccoons have more than learned that lesson and in some cases, have the welts to prove it.  For raccoons, it is far better (and safer) to raid a garbage can than to wander too close to a nesting goose. Both, the hen and gander mean business.

For all these reasons and more, it is usually the more mature and experienced, dominant paired geese who actually nest. (Most geese spend the spring and summers congregated in groups.) The necessary preparations for nesting, vigilance and defense of nests and young are a long, arduous and often dangerous process requiring the utmost in patience, adaptability, sacrifice and bravery.

Central Park geese are fortunate in that their only real threats are represented by raccoons.

But in other places, geese have to defend against foxes, coyotes, swans, birds of prey and sometimes even wolves.

Nature is never easy.

But for the brave and committed, it is usually survivable.

Among the main reasons for high survivability among Canada geese are in fact, their devotion to one another and their bravery which likely rank among the highest in the natural world.

Virtually nothing deters Canada geese from loyalty and defense of their lifelong mates and their young.  -- PCA


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