Canadian Geese on the wing

>> Monday, October 15, 2007

The local Canadian geese are becoming more active. Their loud ‘honking’ draws my attention skywards where I am greeted with three flocks flying in their usual perfectly formed vee shaped squadrons. The three squads are flying in a southerly direction seemingly intent on getting out of here ahead of the cold winter that their instincts tell them is on the way.

Watching the geese fly and hearing their call always brings a smile to my face. I’m not sure why, but it gives me a feeling that everything is right with the world. Their instinct is a constant that marks the changing of the seasons and there is comfort in that inevitable change. Wildlife instinct is greater than any other force known to man. But, something different has been taking place to disrupt this clarion call. Not all geese actually fly ‘south’ for the winter to that warm, sunny retreat we all wish we could go when winters’ chill works its way to our bones.

Whether it is due to global climate change or not I am not sure, but some geese are electing to stay here in the U.S. in areas farther north than we are used to seeing them. Typically, when the ground begins to freeze and their food supply dwindles in the fall, they move further south to warmer areas, where food is still readily available. Studies have shown, and I can personally attest to the fact, that not all geese fly as far south as they used to.

The previous three winters that we have lived in Utah I have seen and heard these geese throughout the entire winter. Not in my yard but we have ducks that come in search of food when there is snow on the ground and the nearby canals have frozen over. I leave cracked corn for them which they greedily eat up and they seem to also like the sunflower seeds, husks and all, that the finches (who are also here all winter) scatter on the ground. Finches have very sloppy table manners much to the delight of the ducks who ‘clean up’ after them.

Humans here in Utah, as well as many birds, are blessed with no fewer than ten wetland/wildlife management areas on Great Salt Lake’s shores where literally millions of birds migrate to every summer.
Birds come from as far away as the Andes of South America (Wilson’s Phalarope, pictured here) to nest and multiply and build up their strength for their ultimate flight back home.

Some actually stay through the winter. Canadian Geese are some of those birds who stay.

On the northern and eastern edges of the Salt Lake are great freshwater expanses. The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, being the largest at 74,000 acres, is made up of marsh, open water, uplands, and alkali mudflats and supports a very large population of Canadian geese, as well as many other migratory shorebirds and waterfowl:

American Avocet,

the graceful Bewicks Swan

Black-necked Grebe

and Long-billed Dowitcher

We even have a bit of a celebrity living at the Great Salt Lake. Pink Floyd, the Chilean flamingo, escapee from Tracy Aviary in 1987, now lives in the wild, eating brine shrimp and socializing with gulls and swans. A group of Utah residents suggested petitioning the state to release more flamingos in an effort to keep Floyd company and as a possible tourist attraction. Wildlife biologists resisted these efforts, saying that deliberate introduction of a non-native species would be ecologically unsound and might have detrimental consequences. Pink Floyd was last seen in Idaho (where he was known to migrate to) in 2005. Unfortunately, He has not been seen since that time and is presumed to not have survived the winter of 2005-2006.

Canadian geese eat grasses, marsh grass, berries, seeds, pond plants, tubers, roots and algae. They also feed on crops like clover, alfalfa, wheat, rye, corn, barley, oats and grain left in farmers' fields after the harvest.

Since I don’t grow any of these type of food crops I seriously doubt I will ever see these beautiful geese in my backyard. Meanwhile I am satisfied just hearing them honking away as they fly overhead.


© 2007 -2011 - Utah Valley Gardens - All photos and content copyrighted by Utah Valley Gardens unless otherwise attributed. The use of photographs posted on this site without permission is forbidden and is protected by copyright law, as is all original text.

Blogger templates made by

Back to TOP