Monday, August 14, 2017

Merging of the Guards -- But Will the Two Goose Families Stay Together Come Fall and Winter?

With Buster leading the way, the two families emerge on land at the Central Park Boat Lake.
Buster checks and then gives OK for others to follow.
Bonnie, Buster's mate.
Buster, giving me the once-over.
Note Buster's "souvenirs of past battles" on chest.
Aaron and one of the babies.
Buster (left) keeping careful eye on everyone as goslings eat.
The two goose families (who merged into one) at the Central Park Boat Lake are doing well. If all goes according to Canada goose schedule, the four goslings will turn 11-weeks-old later this month and will be ready to fly. It is likely then that the families will leave the Boat Lake. The parents will be eager to get in the air again and it is incumbent upon them to familiarize their young with different terrains, as well as continue the goslings' flying lessons and build their endurance.

Over these past couple of months, I have taken particular interest in Buster and Bonnie, the parents of the solitary gosling.  It's not known why they only had one baby, but from the beginning, they stuck close to the goose parents (Angie and Aaron) with three goslings.

Eventually, the two families merged into one with Buster appearing to take on the lead, "alpha" role for all eight and Aaron, the secondary, beta role. (Buster appears as a "tough gander" with missing feathers in the front of his chest; obvious souvenirs of past battles.)

It's a little unusual for goose families to merge with other families, but it is not unique -- especially if parents only have one gosling. Merging with another family offers the lone gosling opportunity to grow up with siblings -- a must for Canada geese. Additionally, there is strength in numbers, especially when the parent geese have to defend against predators to protect their young.

Following is a YouTube video of two goose families defending their young against a predatory fox. Obviously, two ganders can better defend than one alone and four parents together form a formidable foe to the fox. It is particularly interesting that one family only has one gosling and the other parents, three (as in the Boat Lake families):

Canada geese are among the most adaptable animals on the planet. Among the reasons geese take up residence in heavily trafficked city parks is avoidance of both, human hunters and predators such as foxes, coyotes and some raptors. Sadly, many people complain about geese in urban parks and golf courses and such has resulted in a virtual "war on geese" in many locations around the country. 

Perhaps if geese were not so relentlessly hunted in their more natural settings, they would prefer them over having to deal with the noise, crowds, cars and dogs of the big cities. 

But it appears that in weighing out all the dangers of urban vs rural locations, geese have concluded that urban is overall better for them and their offspring. They are far from dumb and, on the contrary, are among the smartest (and bravest) of animals on the planet. These are among the reasons for Canada geese high survival rates. -- These and their organizational skills and devotion to mates and offspring.   

Over these past few weeks, virtually all the geese who went through the molt at Central Park (as well as the Reservoir goose family), departed as soon as they regained flight. It is now only a couple of weeks before Buster, Bonnie, Angie and Aaron will likely depart with their grown goslings.

But, will they stay together throughout the fall and winter as this "merging of convenience" helped all to survive the summer in Central Park?  

Hm, none, including Buster, are telling. And I ain't placing any bets. -- PCA


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