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March 26, 2012

Why Do Canada Geese Like Urban Areas?

Any why do they stay year-round without migrating?

Adapted from the book Wild Neighbors

  • Large expanses of mowed grass (commonly found in parks and ball fields) provide the perfect habitat for geese. Linda Reider/The HSUS

  • The main job of a male Canada goose (gander) is to protect the nest from predators. His mate helps when needed. Jeff Irish

  • Canada geese speak with their young using a variety of calls and noises. Doczi/iStockphoto.com

Once decimated by hunting and habitat loss, Canada geese rebounded after captive birds were released throughout the country.

People may be surprised to hear that birds learn to migrate from their parents and flock—they don't hatch with this complex knowledge. So released geese never learned to fly north and instead took up local residence year-round.

We've provided food and safety right here in our cities and suburbs. The geese have no reason to go elsewhere, so they settle in and raise families.

Large flocks in public places

It's one thing to shoo a few geese off a back lawn and another to convince a large flock that has used a park for years that they ought to go elsewhere. That requires a plan. A coordinated program will save in the long run and be more successful.

Want to make peace with geese? First, make a plan »

Geese around airports

Airport safety programs can keep the flying public safe and be humane. The best programs use long-term strategies to permanently reduce the conditions that attract geese to airports, move geese immediately away when they are in protected airspace, and work to instill learned avoidance in flocks that reside near airports or other places where they cause conflicts.

Repeatedly killing geese merely opens habitat for other geese to fill. The solution is to treat the problem at the source—make airports and surrounding areas undesirable habitat to the birds while preventing flock growth with addling, contraception, or both.

Geese defending nests and goslings

Canada geese tenaciously defend their nests and goslings. Unsuspecting people can get too close and inadvertently provoke defensive responses by both the female (goose) and the male (gander).

If this happens simply prevent any problem by marking off the nest with highly visible warnings—nosecones with caution tape, for example. Let people who regularly use the area know that the geese will defend their nest until the eggs hatch but leave afterwards.

When parents are defending a nest or goslings, simply back away. Gently shooing a family (slowly) away from high-traffic locations can move them on if they are likely to be approached repeatedly.

Public health and Canada geese

Scientific studies do not show that goose droppings pose any special health threats. Obviously, people want to avoid contact with any animal droppings. Ordinary good hygiene, such as washing hands and leaving shoes at the door, are adequate prevention if you accidentally contact animal droppings.

Resources

» Guide to Canada Geese shows step-by-step how to humanely deal with "nuisance" geese.
» Living with Wild Neighbors in Urban and Suburban Communities: A Guide for Local Leaders gives elected officials and other decision-makers the tools to implement long-lasting, nonlethal solutions to community wildlife conflicts.
» Schedule a Canada Goose Egg Addling Training workshop in your community.
» Humane Wildlife Services works to resolve homeowners' conflicts with wild neighbors.
» Our Wild Neighbors book offers a detailed look at urban wildlife species and how to peacefully coexist with them.

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