Compiled by Logan Bangert.
A common sight across Illinois right now is the flocks of the Canadian geese. Once a symbol of the North American wilderness, Canadian geese are now mostly considered pests and airport hazards that are often evicted from park ponds. Canadian geese breed across North America. They breed in Canada and Alaska during the warmer months, then winter mainly in the southern United States and Mexico. Throughout much of the United States there are also populations that have taken permanent residence year-round. During their fall migrations, they slice the sky in their recognizable V-formation, each population adhering to a rigid migratory path with traditional stopover and wintering areas. Canada geese are strong, swift fliers, that can cover 2,400 km (1,500 miles) in 24 hours when riding the wind currents. They use the V-formation because it conserves energy by allowing the geese to take advantage of air currents created by the wingtips of the bird ahead in the lead position. Although lakes, ponds, marshes, and fields are the environments in which Canadian geese naturally live, golf courses, airports, and parks provide attractive habitat because of their lawns. Canadian geese are almost exclusively plant eaters, and the bill is serrated for efficient grazing on short grasses. In urban and suburban areas their increased numbers are sometimes unwelcome because 50 geese can produce 2.5 tons of manure in one year. Some golf courses and landowners take measures such as hiring border collies to chase the birds off. At the turn of the 20th century Canadian geese were feared to be nearing extinction in many areas. Since then, because of the Migratory Bird Convention Act, the institution of refuges, the proliferation of lawns in the eastern United States, and agriculture in the Midwest, the birds have become numerous to the point of being labeled as pests. The release of decoy birds to attract migratory geese to hunters’ gunsights also has established a large, non-migratory population in the eastern United States. At the beginning of the 21st century the resident population was estimated at about one million birds and increasing. Canadian geese were also introduced into England for sport and as ornamental waterfowl in the 17th century and, subsequently, into other northern European countries where they are still found to this day. Because of their population size and lack of threats the ICUN lists them as least concern (LC).