By Choo Choo Rosenbloom
Why are Canada geese migrating in June?
Most people notice Canada geese when they see them fly in their spectacular formations and when they hear their wild calls. Often, you see these formations when geese return to herald the spring and later in the year, when the weather turns colder and geese migrate south for the winter.
So why do Canada geese migrate in June? And where are they off to?
These geese who are migrating in the first weeks of June are molt migrants. They're not all from Winnipeg. They may be from the northern United States as well. The ones from Winnipeg are Giant Canada geese. The molt migrants are made up of subadults (1-2 year old geese), birds who lost their mates, pairs who lost their nest or who lost their goslings either through predation or perhaps their goslings merged with other goslings to form gang broods.
Long flights put a lot of strain on their feathers. Each year, they have to molt out the old, worn feathers and grow new ones. Birds cannot fly when they molt. Therefore, they are vulnerable. They need to find safe places to molt. They also leave the brooding area (where parents raise their young) because there is too much competition for food.
The molt migrants will be the first to molt.
Some yearlings move only a few miles from their parents. This year, I have observed 15 non-breeding geese molting at the park pond where parents are raising their young. Other molt migrants migrate hundreds of miles to the north, continuing up to the Hudson Bay coast. They have been observed at the north end of Southampton Island, about 1300 miles north of Winnipeg. (Garth Ball, Wetlands Specialist)
You will begin to notice feathers drifing about on the park grounds. Pick them up. Look closely at the miracle that you hold in your hand that allows geese to soar into the skies.
Parents begin their annual molt when their goslings are about a month old. I have observed that mothers molt before fathers. They will be flightless for 4-5 weeks. They regain their flight feathers about the time their goslings reach the flight stage.
Molt migrants will return to the brooding area to rejoin their families when they have regained their flight feathers, usually in September.