It happens every year at this time. The gregarious Canada geese make their way North to build their nests and seek out mates on the local marsh. With lots of wing-bashing, chasing and aggressive honking, the waterways become alive with the spring mating and nesting season of these glorious birds.
While their namesake would have you believe they live only in Canada, these geese can be found all over North America at various times of the year. In the spring, they head back north to Canada, Alaska and the northern U.S. where they congregate in large numbers to start new families.
Scientists claim there are as many as 11 races of Canada geese, the smallest weighing in as little as 1.1 kilograms, while the giant Canada goose tops the scales at 8 kilograms with a wing span of 2 meters. Spending up to 12 hours a day eating, the birds require a great deal of nutrition — especially females during the spring mating season. They mostly feed on grains and plant materials, which is why it is common to see large fields appear to lift into the air as the long-necked birds feast in April and May.
A photographer's delight!
May is a great time to photograph Canada geese as there is generally lots of fast and furious action. Young geese are finding their first mates while the old couples settle in and males defend their nests. It can create a lot of noise and a great deal of splashing around! Gregarious and talkative, the Canada goose is believed to have as many as 13 distinct calls and as considered almost as "chatty" as humans. In fact, Goslings even begin vocalizing while still in the egg.
It is not uncommon to have some of the birds' louder remarks directed at you if the geese feel you are encroaching on their space — so tread cautiously for those close-ups.
The family way
The geese have strong family values, and once they begin to mate, usually in their second year, they generally stay with the same partner for life. Often nesting on islands in small ponds, rivers or marshes, a female will lay between five to seven eggs in a clutch, each egg taking a day or so to lay. After about 25-30 days, the goslings will peck their way out, emerging as bright yellow, fluffy chicks. They take to the water and begin eating immediately to gain the strength and nutrients they will need to migrate. Males and females co-parent, and it's not unusual to see the family in formation with the parents at each end.
Now is the time to get out in your local woodlands and waterways to see the geese in their prime. And if you are very lucky, you might get to spend time with those little yellow youngsters!