When I heard the honking of returning geese overhead just a few weeks ago, this was a sure sign that spring was around the corner. In fact, it feels as though Canada geese bring spring to Winnipeg on their wings. Then they settle down and start acting as if every green patch within the city limits is their property, and our excitement slowly wears out… Though we think we know these large birds all too well, there are a few surprizing facts about them.
Once a year, shortly after the nesting season, geese molt (shed), their flight feathers. During this six-week period, geese are unable to fly and stay close to water, where they can find safety from predators.
Canada geese are also the largest among their species, weighing up to 14 pounds with a wing spread of up to 5 feet.
It might be difficult to believe today, but the Canada goose almost went extinct in the early 1900s.
Here is one for your next nature trivia. If a group of geese stands around or grazes, they are a flock, in-flight they become a skein, team, string or wedge; when on water, it’s a gaggle. Moreover, a V-shaped flight formation is called chevron. Not confused enough yet? The female is called a goose and the male is a gander.
Geese are very vigilant birds with excellent hearing, and make for very effective guards. So much so, that they’ve been used by Chinese border guards instead of dogs to prevent illegal migration across the border. Because they are extremely territorial, they alert border guards as soon as they hear anyone approach.
US military has used geese to guard their military facilities in Germany, and a flock with the flawless name Scotch Watch used to watch whiskey warehouses in Scotland.
Written & Edited by Anna Aráoz