Canada Geese

Clear skies. Light winds.

The most Canada geese that I have counted to date is 33. The Canada goose (Branta canadensis. Not “Canadian goose”, they do not have citizenship) is a regular visitor/resident out here at Race Rocks. The species has 11 sub-species, many of which experienced a dramatic decline at the beginning of the 20th century because of hunting pressure and habitat loss. However, in the last 25 years the species has experienced a strong recovery. There are many groups that have also ceased to do their seasonal migration. They have recovered to a point where they are now considered a pest in many places. The main reasons for their change in status and migrations has to do with the bird’s adaptability. It has thrived under decreased hunting pressure and changes in weather/climate. This has combined with an increase in protected grassy areas (eg lawns, golf courses, and parks) and agricultural practices that leave waste grain in the fields over the winter. The species is considered to be invasive in New Zealand, where it was intentionally introduced as a game species. The species was also introduced, and has also migrated, to the UK and several Scandinavian countries. The species’ adaptability means that the Canada Goose is now the most numerous waterfowl in North America.

The geese are an issue at Race Rocks partly because they nest under Eco-guardians bedroom windows and attack them when they try to get firewood, but more importantly, because they dramatically alter the habitat on Great Race. A Canada goose spends roughly 12 hours a day feeding. They are mostly herbivores and feed on grass, sedges, leaves, roots, and seaweed/algae. They consume an average of 1.3 kg (3 lbs) of grass every day, which is roughly 1.5 m² (5 feet²) of area. This grass is converted into 0.5 to 1.3 kg (1-3 lbs) of droppings per day. This means that with the current population of ~30 geese at Race Rocks 39 kg (30 lbs) of grass is being consumed and converted into waste every day. This equates to a daily grazing area of 45 m². Because of grazing by the geese, nearly all of the grass on Great Race is kept cropped low to the ground, much like a lawn. This constant grazing causes soil erosion, and prevents the grasses from being able to seed. It has also changed the habitat on the ground which impacts songbirds and other species that live on the island. There used to be small (~1m²) goose exclusion fences on the island to see what happened to the grass if geese were unable to graze on it; However, the Sea lions crushed and destroyed the study plots.

Canada Goose facts
-In the wild, if they live past the high-mortality first year, they can survive to 30 years of age.
-The oldest known domestic Canada Goose lived to be 80 years old.
-They migrate at an average of 1km of elevation, but have been documented up to 9km
-They can fly 1000 km per day
-They have 13 distinct calls

5 tour boats
1 dive boat
3 recreational fishing boats passing through the Reserve
1 recreational fishing boat speeding East through Middle Channel

-put up downspout on tank shed
-checked Keeper’s House furnace filter
-Washed Keeper’s House windows
-general tidying of buildings/infrastructure