August 19, 2016

Canada goose

Photo: Saikat Kumar Basu
Photo: Saikat Kumar Basu

Canada goose (Branta canadensis L.) is an aquatic bird with conspicuous long neck, broad wingspan, flat bill and characteristic webbed feet. The adult bird varies in weight between 2-10 kgs with length around 0.8-1.5 m and broad wingspan between 1.3-1.7 m depending on various sub species distributed across the continent of North America. The species is commonly found across Canada, the United States and Mexico from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. The species prefer to spend the summer in the different water bodies of Canada and migrates during the winter to southern US and parts northern Mexico. The species is also found in the parts of Northern Europe and the Asian Far East. It has been introduced in some of the other European countries and also in New Zealand for both ornamental and recreational values.  Several sub species of Canada goose is reported from North America such as the Atlantic Canada goose (Branta canadensis canadensis), Moffitt’s Canada goose (Branta canadensis moffitti); Dusky Canada goose (Branta canadensis occidentalis), Giant Canada goose (Branta canadensis maxima), Lesser Canada goose (Branta canadensis parvipes), Interior Canada goose (Branta canadensis interior) and the Vancouver Canada goose (Branta canadensis fulva). Ornithologists however differ on the exact number of Canada goose sub species across the continent based on several taxonomic and genetic features with different researchers having divergent opinions on the topic of sub species. The species has a beautiful plumage being brown on the back, with black neck and head and white chicks. The powerful migratory calls of the large Canada geese flocks during the Fall season (Autumn) is an iconic symbol of the Canadian wilderness and the grandeur natural beauty of the continent of North America.  The beautiful V-shaped flying pattern of the migrating flocks is an awesome sight for several avian and wildlife enthusiasts across the continent of North America.
The species is currently under consideration on a nation wide opinion poll for designating a National Bird for Canada. The species is so intimately associated with life and culture of North America that several stamps and coins have been released in Canada and the US commemorating this majestic water bird. Canada goose is also associated with several folklores, songs and poems of the aboriginal communities of North America too. Although a well known migratory species in the continent of North America; however over the decades due to availability of food during winter, several resident Canada geese flocks are seen aggregating on snow covered agronomic fields across the Prairies both in the US and Canada. The species is well known across North America for their extreme devotion and strong paternal instincts. Around 2-12 chicks are raised in a single clutch depending on the seasonal fluctuations of food abundance and protection from potential predators in and around fresh water bodies. Both parents are extremely dedicated in raising their young ones and are fiercely protective against any possible threat or danger to the safety and security of their chicks. The chicks follow their parents everywhere including swimming, relaxing and foraging; and grow very fast in size and weight depending of easy availability of food sources. Aquatic vegetation, crustaceans, insects and different plant parts constitute the bulk of the species diet. The current conservation status of the species according to IUCN is Least Concerned; and is easily visible in large flocks across North America.


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