HIGH PARK NATURE
HIGH PARK STEWARDS
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The Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis), the most common waterfowl species in North America, is native to our arctic and temperate regions. Famous for their honking sounds while in flight in a V shape formation, they are large birds, with long black necks and a black head with a white stripe. They are devoted family members, mating for life (which can be as long as 30 years) and often nesting in the same area where their parents nested before them.
As they feed on vegetation, and are especially fond of short grass, they prefer habitat in areas of low vegetation, adjacent to open water, and areas that are simple, lacking in vertical elements. While they’re known for their migration, changes in habitat and food sources have meant that some populations have become non-migratory because they have an adequate winter food supply in the area, and are lacking former predators. In fact, even in the middle of winter you can often find them in High Park, hanging out on the snowed in or melting patches of grass.
In the summer time, you’ll find them in both Grenadier Pond and the Duck Ponds at the south end of the park. Believe it or not, Canada Geese spend about equal time on land and water.
No matter where you go, it’s almost certain that their numbers have continued to increase steadily due to the increased availability of their preferred habitat in urban areas (un-natural, short turf grass), and High Park, with its manicured gardens surrounding the pond, is no exception.
Some people have expressed concern about geese feces accumulating near the water’s edge and the potential impact that can have on water quality, including large algae blooms. As a result, egg oiling has been used in the park to reduce numbers of Canada Geese. This method aims to reduce the overall bird population, and consists of an application of mineral oil that suffocates the embryo of the waterfowl. Adult birds are fooled into thinking the egg is alive, and therefore continue to sit on the egg, waiting for it to hatch.
Other methods of population control are also used, such as habitat modification. Habitat modification consists of changing or altering the habitat currently used by the animals, essentially making the site unattractive to the species. You may notice for example, that the geese do not congregate in large numbers along the densely vegetated naturalized portion of the pond, but do congregate further south near the wooden lookout point, where plenty of short turf grass is available.
Author: Barbi Lazarus
See also Environment Canada brochure.
In mid-June Canada geese will go through a annual molting phase where they will lose there flight feathers and re-grow new ones. During this 6-8 week flightless period resident and moult migrant geese will congregate in areas where there is a food source adjacent to water drastically increasing the local goose population. Throughout this flightless period each goose consumes approximately 4 lbs of manicured grass and excretes approximately 2 lbs of fecal matter daily as well as losing their feathers causing severe damage to the landscape and impairing water quality.
During this period Canada geese may be relocated from High Park to sites outside Toronto that can support moulting geese. Typically, broods are not relocated.
The onset of nesting activity usually begins in early April. Typically, Canada geese return to their natal site to breed (probably the site at which they learned to fly) and a pair will likely nest in the same spot every year. A strong base and good visibility appear to be nest site requirements, as well as a safe place to raise broods (usually open water) and ample nearby forage.
Canada geese usually build their nests on the ground in low vegetation near open water. Preferred nesting sites include small islands in ponds and along the banks of bodies of water. Beaver houses or the nests of other birds such as ospreys, hawks, owls and herons are also sometimes used. Nests are constructed of grass, twigs, bark, leaves and moss, with diameters ranging from 37 to 110 centimetres (15 to 44 inches). Males are very protective of their nests. A male that hisses and beats his wings when you approach may be protecting a nest.
Geese are attracted to mown lawns that stretch down to the water. To deter them allow native vegetation, including longer grasses, to grow at the water’s edge.