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FEEDING GEESE/ WHAT TO FEED GEESE

By Choo Choo Love

Summer 2008

(I'm feeding Becky)

Canada geese will not remain in an area because you feed them and migrating geese migrate, duh!

Certain news articles and wildlife agencies "advise" us not to feed Canada geese. They claim that we will do them more harm than good. They also claim that feeding Canada geese will cause them to depend on us for food, causing them to lose the ability to forage and delaying their migration. Is this true?

Please CLICK HERE to read an Audubon article about feeding backyard birds. Although this article deals with feeding backyard birds, it also discusses whether feeding wild birds delay their migration and causes them to lose their ability to forage. Geese are wild birds and many people actually have them seek out their backyard bird feeders.

We've been feeding Canada geese for six years now and our experience contradicts the claims.

CANADA GEESE WILL NOT REMAIN IN AN AREA BECAUSE THEY'RE BEING FED.

HERE ARE A COUPLE OF EXAMPLES TO ILLUSTRATE THIS POINT TO YOU:

  1. We feed nesting geese every spring from the end of March till mid-May. Pairs who are unsuccessful at starting a family leave the nesting area to head to their molting locations.  Pairs who are successful almost immediately march their goslings to the brooding areas which may be as close as a block away to as far as two miles away. They leave the nesting area despite our feeding them.
  2. We have learned through the years that geese migrate on their own terms and at their own chosen times. We have absolutely no control over their comings and goings. It is human arrogance to assume that we can control animals. Some of our well-fed geese migrate weeks before the others. We usually discover that our geese are not the last to head south. Many more flocks descend upon the city to head south after our geese are gone. These are flocks that we are not familiar with and that we have never fed. 

We also learned that our geese, though tame toward us, remain wild and wary. Often, when we're with them, strangers walk up to join us. Our geese sound their warning honks and often dive into the pond in their effort to get away from the strangers. They don't come back up to us until the stranger has departed. Sometimes we meet friends at the park who decide to accompany us while we feed the geese. If our geese are in the pond, they swim toward us but stop at the shore, throwing uncertain glances toward our friends. It is only when our friends depart that they will come up to us.

Since we are so close to our geese, we are usually the first the know when one of them may be sick or injured and we have helped many geese and ducks over the years. There are folks out there who will tell us or tell you that wild animals should look after themselves in every way and that we are doing them a great disservice by capturing them when they're sick or injured. We respectfully disagree. We feel that every animal (human or non-human) should be given the best chance of survival and by being close to them, we are usually the first to offer aid to them.

Canada geese recognize particular people. We have often been surprised to be greeted by our geese when we're not in the usual park pond or nesting area, when we're among a lot of other people, and when we're not carrying any food. They fly or run up to us, honking their exuberant greetings, and extend their necks out to us, performing their bowing greeting ceremony, something they do toward fellow geese. There is no greater honor than to be accepted as their friend and to be treated as a fellow goose.

SO WHY DO WILDLIFE AGENCIES PERSIST IN THIS MISLEADING PROPAGANDA?

Author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson answers this question in The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: "What does it take to become everybody's favorite animal?" he asks. "You need to become acquainted up close."

The more you interact with Canada geese, the more you will discover how lovable and adorable they are, and their lives will become important to you. The less you know, the less important their lives.

Wildlife agencies don't want you feeding Canada geese because they don't want you to become acquainted with them up close. They don't want you to realize that Canada geese are noble, wonderful, intelligent, sensitive, caring and lovable creatures. If you realize the humanity of Canada geese, you will be outraged that the government persecutes them, promoting their legal murder and destruction. You  will fervently oppose hunting and other government actions to destroy Canada geese.

In many cities across North America, wildlife agencies penalize the feeding of Canada geese while promoting and rewarding cruelty toward them (hunting, gassing, separating goslings from parents, butchering, etc.). Any logical and reasonable person should conclude that this is wrong.  

Once you get to know Canada geese, you will discover that they're more intelligent and emotional than most cats and dogs. They care about their mates. They care about their young. They grieve when they lose their mates and children, which means they understand the concept of death and loss. They value their life. They're loyal to their friends, man or geese. They have emotions: joy, sorrow, jealousy, love, anger, desire. They know fear and they can feel pain. They are gentle, responsive creatures who need and desire your love and kindness.

WHAT AND HOW SHOULD YOU FEED CANADA GEESE?

If you'd like to feed Canada geese, bring them some cracked corn. That is their favorite grain and you can purchase it from a feed store (look in your yellow pages under FEED STORES or FEED DEALERS). They're  nutritious and low in protein. Some pet stores carry them in bulk bins but these are usually more expensive than those you get at a feed store. Cracked corn usually costs about US $11/ 50 lbs.

You can also feed them hen scratch which is usually a combination of cracked corn, wheat, barley and oats. You can purchase hen scratch from a feed store.

Never feed geese and other waterfowl old moldy bread or anything that is moldy.  They will ingest the moldy bread and inhale the spores, becoming sick with a lung infection (fungus) that eventually causes death. Please feed grains & corn more than bread, as bread has not much nutritional value and can fill the bird up as it expands with water.  Most birds should be smart enough to balance their diet but we do have some animals in the wild that are "junk food addicts".  Bread and other high protein diets like duck/ goose starters may cause a condition known as angel wing (see photo of goose below with angel wing. A goose with angel wing cannot fly). Duck/goose/chicken scratch under 17% protein is a better diet.  Angel wing can happen more commonly when the goslings are being rehabilitated by inexperienced people,  where the geese are not offered a variety of food when confined in a cage.

If you need to feed geese who have difficulty getting out of the water, you can feed them MAZURI ORNAMENTAL WATERFOWL MAINTENANCE FOOD. This feed floats on the water so it's perfect for an injured goose or duck who is unable to get out of the water to feed. We do not recommend this feed for healthy wild waterfowl or goslings. If you're interested, call your local feed dealers or bird feed suppliers. You can also order it directly from www.mazuri.com

If you're unable to purchase grain and you need to feed geese desperately (because they are injured or stuck in some area, unable to get out due to injury and you need to get food to them immediately), wild bird feed is a good substitute. Read the label and look for feed that contains wheat and corn. You can get bags of them from grocery stores and Wal-Mart.

When feeding a flock, it is a good idea to place handfuls of grain spaced about 10-15 feet apart. This allows all the geese to eat in peace. Of course, it doesn't mean that fights will not erupt but the chances of it happening are much reduced if you feed this way. You can also row feed if the ground is clean by spreading long rows of grain along the ground. If you place all the grain in one big mound, geese will fight over it and the most aggressive geese will dominate the pile while the others have to stand and watch.


A Goose with angel wing
 

Feed Canada geese away from walking paths. Most people do not like their poop and they are exposed to dangers from dogs, bikes, racing kids, skateboards, etc. Feed them on the grass close to the water but do not throw the cracked corn or bread into the water. They have a tendency to sink to the bottom of the pond. In the heat of summer, the accumulated food can become toxic, causing a condition known as botulism, which has been known to kill pond animals. 

We feed our geese mostly during the nesting period and just before they head south. When Canada geese return from the south in mid-March, our city is usually covered with snow. There is no grass and ponds are frozen, which prevents geese from finding food. While nesting, Canada geese lose weight because they're unable to leave their nests to find food. We feel that our supplemental food helps them out at that time. Before they head south, they go through a phase known as hyperphagia in which they need to eat a lot to store food and energy for migration and winter. We feed them a lot less during the summer as there is usually plenty of grass and water plants (with the exception of droughts). Grass and pond plants are the best food for goslings.

WHEN NOT TO FEED CANADA GEESE:

If your park has a NO FEEDING policy (indicated by signs posted throughout the park), for the sake of the geese, please DO NOT FEED THE GEESE! To me, these are indications of intolerance toward Canada geese. Your feeding will only provoke the park authorities to initiate cruel treatment toward them.

If your neighborhood begins to complain and discuss ways of getting rid of Canada geese, please DO NOT FEED THEM. You and I know that your feeding is not the reason for their remaining at the park but we will have a hard time convincing people who believe in all the misleading propaganda spewed by the media and the government. Our feeding them at this time will only provoke anger and possibly cause our beloved geese to suffer from cruel treatment or even death.

DO CANADA GEESE GORGE THEMSELVES ON FOOD?

No. From our observation, they walk away when they're full. Goslings rest or go to sleep after snacking on food, even when there's food lying around. This is why the production of foie gras (force-feeding of ducks and geese to produce a fatty liver gourmet food) is extremely cruel and brutal.

Once they get to know you, they will run, fly and swim to you with unmitigated joy. You will enjoy their company. You will see that every goose is an individual with his or her own personality. You may even give them names based on their looks or personalities. You will look into their beautiful eyes and you will see what we see: creatures of magnificent beauty who have been unfairly maligned and persecuted by man; gentle, harmless, defenseless creatures who are being terrorized by government.


RELATED ARTICLE: Should you Feed Geese in the Winter? By Lisa Tretiak

 

 


 

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