Bird's Eye View of Bute

The Canada Geese

(1) Canada Goose Original
(1) Canada Goose Original
Canada Geese with 3 young
Canada Geese with 3 young




The Canada Goose

This week we have the largest of the 'Black Geese' The Canada Goose. It is about the same size as the Greylag variety that we know so well as they are the ones that winter on Bute every year along with a flock of Greenland White Fronts and a few Barnacle and Pinkfeet. As its names suggests, it is from North America which is their native land and many years ago were introduced to Britain, and have taken up residence in many areas.

The nearest flock that I have seen are on Loch Lomond, and that was not a big flock. We get an occasional visit from them, sometimes only to stop for a feed, and then on their way, yet there was one that stayed for a good while and mixed with the Greylags. Identification is quite easy from a distance if you use my method of elimination to distinguish them from the Barnacle variety. As they both have black necks, the black on the Canada stops at the bottom of the neck.= C for Collar, C for Canada, and the black on the Barnacle goes further down to form a bib.= B for Bib B for Barnacle This is a system that works for me when I have two or more birds that look the same. I use it on other species as well. On close up the Canada has a brown back and the barnacle a grey back. The Canada has a white chin strap, and the Barnacle has a white face. The Canada geese do not migrate from Canada to here. The only migrate within the Americas. And the ones that are here are quite content to stay in Gravel pits, Reservoirs, Ornamental lakes and the like, as long as there is plenty of food, like flat grassy fields with no hassle, but if food runs short then they will move on to another patch.
In some areas in late summer the may meet in a flock of several hundreds for their yearly moult. This is the best time to see them as at this point they are flightless and can only swim away from you. Like all geese they are very aggressive to each other, with large family’s domination smaller ones, and single birds are right at the bottom of the pecking order in every aspect. In the late sixties there were about 10.000 of them in Britain, and they are multiplying all the time, so maybe sometime

we will have a small flock on one of our lochs whether we like it or not.
They may only come to moult, then go back to their main area after their new flight feathers are formed. Like all geese they have white sterns (backsides), this is so that when they are flying in the usual V formation the one in front can be seen a lot easier than if it was brown. This is handy if weather conditions are bad, and could cause collisions at high altitudes if they were a dark colour. Then again what if they hit a snow storm? These birds like all geese are not daft, they can read the weather better than anyone, and if conditions are bad they can take a break on land or sea for a rest or a feed. They lay up to five eggs, with the female doing all the incubation herself with the male standing guard. After the eggs hatch the chicks are able to feed themselves with both parents tending to them keeping a watchful eye for predators. I hope that we get some here as they are very smart looking birds and would give plenty of enjoyment to children and adults alike.

Norrie Mulholland.

First Published in the Buteman 23-05-2003

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