Signs of the season changing to spring are all around us. One of these signs, bird migration, involves making the voyage from southern regions where they winter, back north to their traditional breeding areas. One of the most familiar migrating birds in New York seems to confuse us. The Canada goose, Branta canadensis, has two distinct populations that live in NY. One population is a seasonal migratory bird that spends its summers in northern Canada and its winters in the central to southern U.S. The other population breeds in southern Canada and the U.S. and spends most of its life in that same area.
The resident Canada goose population has risen dramatically since the 1950s. There are multiple factors credited with the increase: a lack of natural predators, the combination of a continual expansion of grass lawns and golf courses, and New York State Conservation officials released "giant" Canada geese in attempt to establish local flocks for game. The current number of resident geese in New York is estimated to be around 200,000 birds. The resident Canada Goose can live more than 20 years and begin breeding around 2 to 3 years old. A single goose may produce more than 50 young over her lifetime. With the Canada Goose being listed as a federally protected species under the Migratory Bird Act, it looks like we will be seeing this bird around for many years to come!
Here are some fun facts of other migratory birds:
The Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus), a native to Asia, has the highest migration path. Each year they migrate from Central Asia to Southern Asia over the Himalayan Mountains. These birds have been recorded flying at an elevation of 29,000 feet!
The Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) has the longest migratory path in the world, approximately 25,000 miles each year! They see two summers a year as they migrate from their northern breeding grounds to the coast of Antarctica for the southern summer before flying back north about six months later.
The Dusky Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus) has the shortest migration path in the world! During the winter months this bird inhabits the mountainous pine forests of Western U.S. and Canada. When summer comes, the Dusky Grouse descends a mere 1000 feet to the deciduous woodlands at the base of those very same mountains!
-Kris Karpinia, Environmental Educator