Their goose is cooked: Canada geese have growing reputation as the world’s ‘most hated bird’

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

Canadians have a love-hate relationship with the Canada goose.

We're awed when watching formations of migrating Canada geese fly majestically overhead. We're disgusted when we look for a picnic spot in the park, only to find the grass befouled by goose poop.

A year or so ago, former Toronto Sun publisher Peter Worthington wrote in a column arguing the Canada goose should replace the beaver as the country's official national symbol.

"Critics fret that Canada geese are a nuisance in parks, that they are messy and take over areas, like grubby Wall Street Occupiers," Worthington wrote.

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"But the Canada goose has a curious nobility. Unlike the polar bear, it’s comfortable throughout Canada. It is monogamous, loyal, brave and hard to intimidate. These are all characteristics to which a nation like Canada should aspire."

But fans like Worthington may be outnumbered by the list of people who see the big honking birds as a national pest.

As the National Post reports, Canada geese are hated by airport safety officials, golf course groundskeepers, farmers and ordinary homeowners obsessed with their lawns.

Urban development has reduced the number of predators who once kept goose populations in check and an abundance of food has encouraged some flocks to forego the flight south each winter.

Conrad Van Vierden, a farmer near Fort Macleod, Alta., told the Post he has to rush through his harvest each fall before migrating flocks arrive.

“They just land there and they would just sit for as long as they were fed and then they were on their way,” he said, adding he stands to loose a fifth of his crop to the voracious birds.

Van Vierden welcomes hunters on his land, but even after goose season closes some seem willing to shoot them for the hell of it.

The Canadian Press reported that RCMP were investigating the discovery of five Canada geese piled near a Fort Macleod construction site days after the Dec. 21 hunting season closed.

In some international quarters, as far away as New Zealand, the birds have a reputation as the ugly Canadians, though attempts to cull them are often met with a backlash from animal lovers.

The Post noted one Canada goose can produce up to 1.5 pounds of droppings a day, which means even a small flock can render a park unusable in short order.

Urban birds are also quite territorial, especially when nurturing their young. Witness this YouTube video of a Canada goose battling a man who happened to encroach on his turf.

But the most serious threat from Canada geese comes at airports, where the big birds — which can weigh up to almost 20 pounds —can bring down an airliner if they get sucked into the jet engine's turbines.

That's what happened to US Airways flight 1549, which lost both its engines while taking off from New York's LaGuardia Airport three years ago. Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger skilfully ditched the plane in the Hudson River without any loss of life.

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But the incident prompted New York authorities to step up control efforts, killing thousands of Canada geese in annual roundups, the Post said.