Happy Mother’s Day

Nothing says Mother’s Day like Mother Goose!

To continue: I had some business to conduct a while ago in Salem, Oregon. At the end of the day as is my habit I worked out at the hotel and then went for a run. As I was trotting along the sidewalk I could not help but notice the slippery texture of the surface beneath my feet. I figured it was simply algae or moss due to the frequent rain and humidity of the Northwest. But when I had to pause my run for a moment at an intersection and looked down at the sidewalk I did not see algae or moss. I saw a LOT of goose poop. Thus began my formal introduction to the Canada Goose, Brant Canadensis.

I’d seen these birds before, of course. They’re pretty hard to miss here in the Northwest. In fact, they’ve pretty much overrun many states in the U.S. But in Salem, Oregon they are so numerous it is impossible not to see gatherings of them in just about anywhere to include busy downtown areas of the city. One particular location, however, is home to especially enormous flocks of these large birds. Between the Geer Community Park and the Oregon State Penitentiary is a large open field that often floods during periods of heavy rain. Gigantic flocks of Canada geese often make this field a temporary stop. It is not unusual to see hundreds of them in this location – and hundreds flying overhead as well – so keep your head down.

So just how have these birds become so successful in the midst of an ever increasing human population? The primary reason is diet. Canada geese eat grass, a commodity we have provided in obvious abundance. Oh they’ll munch on insects and other items as well. But grass appears to be the food of choice, a habit that makes them the bane of golf courses. A pronounced taste for grain does not endear them to farmers either. Adding to this cosmopolitan diet is a tendency for large families, fearless protective care of the little goslings, a sturdy constitution, and an ability to find food on land or water.

Despite all the literature out there about this common bird I have seen one behavior that is not mentioned anywhere. They are the only waterfowl I have ever seen that flips completely upside down in water. Many times I’ve seen them flip over, wiggle their goose feet in the air for few seconds, and then pop upright again. Coupled with the other behaviors I’ve seen at this time it seems to be a bathing ritual.

 

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