Lovely, and Alarming, Canada Geese

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Photo via allaboutbirds.org
Photo via allaboutbirds.org

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you. 

The Cornell Lab or Ornithology’s website describes the Canada goose as “a familiar and widespread goose with a black head and neck, white chinstrap, light tan to cream breast and brown back.” Yep. That’s a good description, last I looked out my living room window at a gaggle of them. The site goes on to note that the goose has “increased in urban and suburban areas in recent years.” Increased? That’s putting it lightly. They’re freakin’ takin’ over the place. 

I was happy this past spring when they left Owings Mills for points north for their summer feeding grounds in Canada. I spent the summer thinking, Gee, I don’t miss that honking cacophony at all. I liked also not being spun around by my dog, a Bichon, who would invariably lunge after one of them when I took her for a walk. I’d tell her, as if bursting the bubble of a small child’s wish to fly, “You couldn’t take one of them if you tried.” She looked at me like, “But Mama I’d be so happy trying!” My dog is the embodiment of the Winston Churchill quote, “Success is going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm.” By that account, Sugar leads a wildly successful life.

When my sister and I were young, my mother told us a cautionary tale about geese. When she was little, visiting a farm on some bucolic fall afternoon in 1940s Pennsylvania, she toddled down to a pond with her mother to see the “big dwucks” (she didn’t know they were geese). Anyway, long story short, one of the biggest of the big dwucks rushed her, went after her face, flapping its wings menacingly and honking really aggressively. It totally scared her. It scarred her for life. When she sees the geese descending onto the field near my house in late August/early September she shades her eyes like a telenovela star, “I can’t look! Tell me when we’ve passed them!” We have a flair for drama in my family.

Maybe it’s nature, maybe it’s nurture, but I have an irrational fear of swans. It’s something I don’t tell a lot of people, because if you’re a good person, you like swans, right? Since I’m admitting things, water birds as a whole? Shudder. It’s those big webbed feet. As a rational person, I know those big webbed feet are perfect for the world of water in which the geese live, but I see them and a little dinosaur-shaped light in my reptilian hind brain flickers, Danger! Claw-foot! Take cover in a cave, small mammal!

Whatever you do people, don’t feed them.



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