Managing Geese For Beginners
The annual life cycle for geese begins in late winter when adult pairs return to nesting areas in late February or March, as soon as waters open up.
Egg laying and incubation generally extend through April, with the peak of hatching in late April or early May, depending on location in the state. Geese will aggressively defend their nests, and may attack if approached.
Non-breeding geese often remain nearby in feeding flocks during the nesting season.
After hatching, goose families may move considerable distances from nesting areas to broodrearing areas, appearing suddenly “out of nowhere” at ponds bordered by lawns.
After nesting, geese undergo an annual molt, a 4-5 week flightless period when they shed and regrow their outer wing feathers. Molting occurs between mid-June and late July, and the birds resume flight in August.
During the molt, geese congregate at ponds or lakes that provide a safe place to rest, feed and escape danger. Severe problems often occur at this time of year because the geese concentrate on lawns next to water.
Some geese without young travel hundreds of miles to favored molting areas. These local migrations account for the disappearance or arrival of some local goose flocks in early June.
After the molt and through the fall, geese gradually increase the distance of their feeding flights and are more likely to be found away from water.
Large resident flocks, sometimes joined by migrant geese in October, may feed on athletic fields and other large lawns during the day, and return to larger lakes and ponds to roost at night.
This continues until ice or snow eliminates feeding areas and forces birds to other open water areas nearby or to the south, where they remain until milder weather returns and nesting areas open up.
“Resident” geese, as their name implies, spend most of their lives in one area, although some travel hundreds of miles to wintering areas. Resident geese are distinct from the migratory populations that breed in northern Canada. Banding studies have shown that resident geese are not simply migrant geese that stopped flying north to breed.
In fact, Canada geese have a strong tendency to return to where they were born and use the same nesting and feeding sites year after year. This makes it hard to eliminate geese once they become settled in a local area.
There are many ways to discourage geese from settling in your area. No single technique is universally effective and socially acceptable. Persistent application of a combination of methods is usually necessary and yields the best results.
Goose problems in suburban areas are especially difficult because birds are not afraid of people and may become accustomed to scaring techniques. Also, some techniques are not compatible with desired uses of suburban properties.
For example, loud noisemakers in residential areas, putting grid wires over swimming areas, or letting grass grow tall on athletic fields, are not practical remedies in those situations. But don’t rule out any technique that might be feasible. Dogs under strict supervision can safely be used in parks and schools, and controlled hunting has been successfully used at some golf courses.
Initiate control measures as soon as you notice geese in your area and be persistent. Once geese settle in a particular location, they will be more tolerant of disturbances and be difficult to disperse.
No method works well with just a few attempts, and a comprehensive, long-term strategy is usually needed.
Control measures work in various ways. Some reduce the biological capacity of an area to support geese by reducing availability of food or habitat. Other methods disperse geese to other sites where, hopefully, they are of less concern.
Some techniques reduce the actual number of geese to a level that people can tolerate. Control techniques described here include those that have the best chance for success based on past experience.
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