Monday, March 23, 2015

Weird geese at Julia Davis Park

On the 4th of July we spent most of the day enjoying the holiday (and not birding) but on a quick drive through Julia Davis Park couldn’t help but notice a few funny looking geese. The geese that hang out in the park always seem a little bit off – they’re way too comfortable with people, have lost many of their natural instincts, and often have strange physical defects from eating nutritionally poor food that humans enjoy tossing to them (white bread being the main culprit). A couple of these birds caught my eye because of their unusually dark or light plumage.

Here’s an unusually dark Canada Goose. In particular note how the white cheek is quite dark, instead of the clean white on a normal Canada Goose.

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Canada Goose at Julia Davis Park, Ada County. July 4, 2014.

Another nearby goose went to the other end of the spectrum, and was abnormally light. The areas that should have been black were brown instead, and the parts that should have been dark brown were a light tan.

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Canada Goose at Julia Davis Park, Ada County. July 4, 2014.

Leucism is the partial loss of pigmentation, and affects a small number of birds (and other animals) from most species, and we’ve seen other examples too, including one goose a couple of years ago near Camas NWR that almost looked albino. This particular goose was also lacking pigmentation in the feet as well – check out their orange color in this picture.

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Canada Goose at Julia Davis Park, Ada County. July 4, 2014.

Here’s a Canada Goose with normal plumage, but notice how it’s dragging it’s left wing? That’s likely due to a condition called “angel wing” that can be caused by a poor diet. In city-dwelling geese, white bread fed from humans is almost always to blame. If you do want to feed the ducks or geese in city parks, you’d be better off feeding them other foods, including unsalted and lightly oiled or air-popped popcorn. Or, even better, you could feed them frozen peas or scraps of produce, as suggested by the Canal and River Trust in the UK.

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Canada Goose at Julia Davis Park, Ada County. July 4, 2014.

This last goose doesn’t have anything wrong with it (yet) but it sure looks goofy too. It’s a juvenile going through that awkward stage of growth where it’s no longer a cute gosling, and it’s not yet a normal looking adult. It’s large (checkout the girth of those gams!), half-naked, and awful scraggly looking.

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Canada Goose at Julia Davis Park, Ada County. July 4, 2014.

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