Canada goose from BC turns up 3,000 km away in Chicago

Feb 4 2022, 6:12 pm

If a goose tagged on Vancouver Island can end up all the way in Kanye West’s hometown of Chicago, then who knows where they’ll fly to next?

Stew Pearce works on the VIU Canada Goose Project, a joint effort by Vancouver Island University (VIU) and the City of Nanaimo to find out what the geese in the Nanaimo area are up to.

Pearce told Daily Hive that one adventurous goose from their project made it all the way to Lincoln Park in downtown Chicago in October 2021 after they were initially tagged in June 2016 at Departure Bay in Nanaimo.

“Although the overall distance travelled – around 2,900 km – was not unusual for a goose, the fact that it was that far east was very surprising,” said Pearce.

Between 2016 and 2017, 400 Canada geese were tagged with numbered white collars and metal leg bands. Now, the public has been reporting sightings of the geese, providing useful data to help paint a picture of geese movement and distribution.


Map of goose collar sightings/VIU Canada Goose Project

Before this Chicago-bound goose, the most unusual goose sighting from their project turned up near Boyle, Alberta, close to 160 km north of Edmonton.

Pearce says that geese typically stick to certain flyways running north to south from the arctic to southern parts of North America.

Studies have shown that waterfowl like these geese are pretty loyal to their nesting and wintering grounds, going back and forth predictably each year.

That said, according to Pearce, “immature individuals of many species are known for dispersing significant distances in search of new habitat – and likely to disperse genes to some degree – so this may have been the case for this goose. This may have been an ‘extreme’ case of dispersal.”

“Our study has uncovered some interesting and unexpected goose behaviours – sightings such as the one in Chicago are very unexpected so it’s always exciting to hear of something so unusual.”

“Often we receive criticism about the neck collars (some people think they’re cruel), but sightings like this provide us information about bird populations that you just simply would never know otherwise.”


VIU Canada Goose Project

“Probably the biggest take-home finding from our study is that the majority of Canada geese in Nanaimo are non-resident,” said Pearce, who says it’s likely a similar story for most goose populations in BC’s South Coast.

“Prior to banding these geese, it was assumed that the geese observed on local sports fields were simply resident geese that hang around all year,” said Pearce.

“However, our study has shown that only 30 to 35% of geese in Nanaimo are true residents, whereas the remainder of the population adopts some degree of migratory behaviour and/or dispersed to other areas to live.”

Next time you see a gaggle of geese, remember that they could be in Chicago if they wanted, but they’re choosing to poop on the sidewalk in your neighbourhood instead.

Sarah AndersonSarah Anderson

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