Canada Geese of Calgary, Alberta -- I will Always Remember You.

Mother and Father Goose and their goslings on Prince's Island on the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta.
Mother and Father Goose and their goslings on Prince's Island on the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta. | Source

Prince's Island in Calgary has a large Canada Goose population.

Springtime in Calgary, Alberta is a beautiful time to walk among geese and goslings in the local parks. One of the biggest parks in Calgary is Prince's Island. Many of the geese – for some reason unknown to me – do not even leave the area to head south in the autumn. They brave the frigid winter temperatures and deep snow. Hundreds of the geese stay. Wintertime in Calgary reaches temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius below zero.

Prince's Island is situated on the Bow River just a few blocks north of downtown Calgary. The downtown core of the city is encompassed by two rivers, the Bow and the Elbow. On the map, the rivers like a moat encircling the city.

Giant Canada Goose is the actual name of this species of goose.

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Prince's Island on the Bow River was not named after a prince. It was named after a savvy businessman in the early part of the twentieth century, Peter Anthony Prince. He was the founder of the Eau Claire Lumber Mill. Years after his passing, his family donated the land to the city for the purpose of making it an urban park. Service vehicles and emergency vehicles are allowed on the island, but not regular traffic. The geese take over the roadways in the spring and summer.

The Bow River is a fast-flowing river when it is not covered in ice. I have watched the mom and dad geese teach their young ones how to conquer the river's flow and arrive safely downstream at various points on the river's bank. The father goose swims at the head and the mother goose at the back of their little family. They stay close together, almost forming a raft of sorts, as they paddle furiously under the water with their feet. Each time I witnessed these goose-to-gosling teaching moments from one of the bridges above the river, I had to remind myself to breathe. I did not think all the goslings would make it safely to the shore with their parents because the current was so swift. I couldn't be sure the goslings always survived as sometimes they were too far away for me to do a head count. The skill and determination of those goslings' parents to steer their little ones to the shore was so impressive.


Trekking along the Bow River on the outskirts of downtown Calgary.
Trekking along the Bow River on the outskirts of downtown Calgary. | Source
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Mother Geese need their rest.

I was also very impressed with the protectiveness and confidence of the father and mother geese as they walked their goslings along the roadway among the two-legged pedestrians who all seemed to be hurrying – some jogging, some skateboarding, many people walking – and meanwhile these geese were showing their young ones where to stop and nibble amid the grass and foliage for tasty living organisms. The adult geese acted as though it was really their park and we humans were allowed to visit the area if we behaved and kept a respectable distance from them.

In springtime at one end of Prince's Park, the mother geese rest with their babies sleeping in a feathery pile not too far away. Some wise mothers enfolded their babies under their large matronly wings, but others just took a complete break and trusted the husband's keen eye and loud hiss would defend their offspring at a moment's notice.


Spring time in Calgary on Prince's Island.
Spring time in Calgary on Prince's Island. | Source

I love the geese of Calgary and how they fly. I loved to have the males 'power' by me as I'd walk the Riverwalk. The adult geese would fly just a few feet over my head and six feet to my right – and straight along the river's flow. I never had my camera with me when those magical moments occurred. The next afternoon I would go walking along the river's edge again. I would remember to take my camera along and, of course, not a single goose would fly by But when one did – and sometimes two together – even though I had no camera, what a thrill. Their wing beats were strong and their destination was shared. Sometimes they would honk as they flew past me.

I don't know where the geese slept at night and I often wondered about it. The river had one area which did not flow as fast and was hidden, surrounded by bushes and trees. Perhaps that is where they slept with all the goslings afloat, encircled by fierce males and tired females.

There is a bird sanctuary approximately ten miles away from Prince's Island. The sanctuary is situated on a different river. I wonder if the forefathers of these geese got confused years and years ago about whether to migrate like a smart bird should or stay at the sanctuary. Maybe their decision to not migrate even just one time caused their offspring for many generations to get confused or have no innate desire to head south in the winter.


One area of the river is cordoned off and does not flow rapidly.

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A Fun and Excellent Video by David Smith. Very Educational Also.

During the winter of 2012, more than once when I was walking, hurrying to the next accessible doorway in Calgary's downtown core and trying to save my life in the unfit-for-humans temperature on a winter afternoon, I spotted geese flying way above me in the bright blue sky, calling out to one another, chasing one another, around and around the tops of the skyscrapers in the city's core. The geese were having fun. They were having a blast.

A Family of Geese out for a Stroll

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Several Mother Geese and their Goslings

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These Geese Must Have Adopted Some Goslings. 22 Goslings in total.

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Cats in their condos watch the geese fly high above the skyscrapers.

Calgary is one of the highest-priced cities in Canada for housing costs. Prices for homes to buy or to rent are exorbitant – just like Vancouver and Toronto. Supply and demand. The economy is booming in Calgary, Alberta. There are not enough homes to rent or buy – especially near the downtown core of the city of Calgary and in many outlying districts. I imagined -- and correctly, I believe -- that there were a lot of domestic cats living in the skyscraping condos – looking out their windows, watching the flight maneuvers and frolics of the Canada Geese each day. Dogs, too, probably were looking wistfully out their windows 20 and 25 stories above the ground. Seeing a bird, a live bird flying through the air, I believe helps keep a few animals sane when they can't see anything normal happening below their residence's window. The people and cars from twenty floors up in the sky look like an N-gauge railway model scene.

When the playful geese needed to land to rest a moment in the frigid air and glaring sun, I saw them gracefully land on a ledge of one of the lower buildings. The magpies often joined in the fun with their calls and flight manoeuvrings, but it was the geese who stole my heart.

When the snow came in November, it stayed through to April, I don't know what the geese ate to stay alive. I couldn't see anything available to them. Snowfall covered everything for days at a time -- until the Chinook winds came again. Thick ice covered the rivers.


General Facts about the Canada Geese

Favorite foods of the Canada Goose
Physical Attributes
Migration
Berries
Body -- 30 - 43 inches tall
Migrates from Northern Canada
Grains
Wingspan -- 4.2 to 5.6 ft
Migrates to Southern U.S. or Mexico
Grasses
Weight -- 6.6 to 19.8 lbs.
Some Canada Geese do not bother to migrate

Geese Flying at Sunrise

Geese flying in the sunrise.  Found at http://i118.photobucket.com/albums/o82/nate_4603/sunriseb.jpg.
Geese flying in the sunrise. Found at http://i118.photobucket.com/albums/o82/nate_4603/sunriseb.jpg. | Source

A most-cherished memory of mine -- the migrating geese.

My most-cherished memory of the geese of Calgary, Alberta would be so easy to show you if only I had had a camera when it occurred. To spell it out is not as effective, but I will try my best to paint the picture with words. We were driving through the outskirts of Calgary in our vehicle, eastbound – passing through Strathmore area – in the early evening hours of mid-November in 2012. We had not lived in Calgary long and knew we would only stay one year. Our senses were very alert to the beauty around us and the knowledge that we would need to endure a very cold winter ahead. The sky was pink and dark purply-navy blue as the day's light faded away. To my wonder, I could see several large V's of geese in the sky ahead – and up above also to my right and to my left. I rolled down our vehicle's window and could hear the exuberant honking as these migratory geese headed out, so bravely, beginning their long journey southward. They fly all night, did you know? The colors of the cold autumn sky, the excitement of the geese, the very spirits of those birds – their courage, their strength, their teamwork – I closed my eyes to try to capture it all forever and to blink back the tears. It was a joyful moment. I love the geese. And I have read that in these great and magnificent migrations, not each one of the birds survive. Some drop from the sky, exhausted, before they reach the flock's destination.

And now for a brief interruption with some facts.

Pink hues and brave sailors of the skies.

Geese leaving on their night flight to southern climes.
Geese leaving on their night flight to southern climes. | Source

There are Migratory Canada Geese and there are Resident Canada Geese

There are approximately 5 million breeding Canada Geese in North America. This figure is from the U.S. Fish and Wild Life Service in their 2013 report. Within that figure are the migratory birds and the resident birds. Those remaining birds which I was so surprised to see wintering in Calgary, you see, are called resident birds. Some people – many people, in fact – consider the resident birds to be pests. It turns out my theory about the bird sanctuary in Calgary having ruined the migratory instincts of some of some of the birds is possibly correct in some ways. It turns out, although now there are still millions of migratory geese, it wasn't always so. In the 1930s and 1940s their numbers were plummeting. Steps were taken to increase the numbers of Canada Geese including the 'giant' Canada Geese. Some of the steps were very successful which resulted in a sharp increase in the number of birds being hatched and managing to survive. Some of those geese grew to like the domestic upbringing and liked to stick around for the easy food.

Some people have found the Canada Goose to be aggressive, but a huge percentage of those types of incidents, according to the geese experts, occur only when the goose is feeling threatened or when he thinks one of his family members are in danger.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects the geese -- sort of -- not really.

One of the most common techniques today to discourage the resident geese from sticking around a neighborhood is to prevent public feeding. However, the Canada Goose is protected individually and as a species collectively under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Therefore, no person or corporation or any kind of agency can use lethal methods against these birds unless they have a permit from the federal, and state. In some jurisdictions, a local permit is also required.

If a neighborhood in Canada or the United States does not like the resident geese in their area, there are techniques which are sometimes allowed to be used so that the geese either move on or die at the hands of the complainants.

Those are the facts.


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I love those geese. They will never seem like a nuisance to me.

Seems awfully sad to me, but then I've only seen the resident geese in parks, so the geese didn't seem like a nuisance to me. I did not have to clean up the roads and grassy knolls of the park. If I had stayed in Calgary and owned a house with a pretty yard and then if I had resident geese visiting regularly and messing all over the driveway and lawns, I just might feel differently. Yes, I think I would definitely feel differently because I have now read the National Geographic site (see link below) which states that 50 Canada Geese can produce two and one-half tons of excrement in a year.

As things are, I only have my memories of the beautiful wild geese intelligently leaving the cold prairie province in V-formations on that cold November day and then, too, I have my memories of the resident geese often flying overhead during that cold winter, keeping me happy and inspired by nature within a steel and concrete city which otherwise would have done me in. Lastly, I have my exciting memories of Canada Geese in spring splendor everywhere I turned on Prince's Island, day after day.

I am thankful and in awe of the Canada Geese -- in all their felicity, serenity and courage.

I will never desire to own a house in Calgary. And where I live, I haven't seen any Canada Geese. Therefore, I will never have the problem of removing goose excrement from a driveway and hosing everything down to clean the area. I will have other problems (desert hairy scorpions, wolf spiders, sun spiders and wind spiders) but not that problem.



A little Poll

What is your favorite kind of goose?

  • The Wonderful Canada Goose
  • The Amazing Bar-Headed Goose
  • The Hawaiian Nene
  • Another type of goose -- not on this list
  • I don't like geese.
See results without voting

Sources

1. Personal knowledge.

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince%27s_Island_Park_%28Calgary%29

3. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Canada_Goose/sounds

4. Cornell Labs of Ornithology. All About Birds Blog. Where Did All those Canada Geese in town come from? By Hugh, September 3, 2013

5. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/canada-goose/

6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_goose

© 2014 Pamela Kinnaird W

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8 comments

Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 2 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

I love the way you write, too, so that makes us even. Thanks for the visit, grand old lady.


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 2 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

Thank you, FlourishAnyway. I love 'em, too.


grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

I love the way you write. Geese are beautiful birds and your observations about them, such as how the parents walk on the sidewalk with the gosling in the middle, are so interesting. How lucky you are to have experienced them swooping over your head. I'm sharing this article because I love the way it's written and how you also note the downside of geese.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

I love these birds and don't consider them nuisances. Some live nearby at a local pond and honk at runners who visit the trails. Great hub and a great, hearty bird.


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 2 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

I'm so glad you visited, aviannovice. I was hoping you would. Thank you for all the information. Yes, I did read that a big percentage of the Canada Geese do not make it past one year old due to predators. About the homing instinct you mentioned, I'm hoping that means the geese can decide to migrate the following year -- and not spend all their winters in frigid Calgary. I'm going to do some more reading about them.

I just love, love, love the geese. I've been looking for just the right photo online so that I could try to paint what I saw -- and ask permission first of the photographer, of course. I'm just an amateur artist. But I would love to try to re-create what I saw in the sky -- a pink sky with at least three V's of Canada Geese heading out. But I've never found anything close to the beauty I saw. I guess the secret is 'you have to be there.' That's what makes it so special. It's one's own picture emblazoned on the soul. Thanks again for stopping by.


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 2 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

Thanks for visiting, DDE. It's always nice to read your comments.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Naturally, I was very pleased to see this. CAGO have a homing instinct regarding where they go, like a wanderlust. They also have their own built in homing devices and have a magnetic polarity with the earth, just like many other birds. Look at the cardinal, robin and the jay--some could move a few blocks away during migration. It all depends on how the bird is wired. Half the birds make it to adulthood. Both youth and age are against them, BUT the drop offs don't always die, and those that make it will try to return to their birthplace.


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Incredible about such geese. I like geese and the different types are so beautiful. You have created an interesting and useful hub.

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