Sunday, June 21, 2009

Urban vs. Rural Geese

Urban Canada Geese

As a follow-up to yesterday's post on the local resident Canada Geese, I came across an interesting study of the rural and urban Canada Goose populations in Washington state (via Twitter). It seems that the rural populations of Canada Geese in eastern Washington have been decreasing, to the point that the state canceled the goose hunting season last September. Meanwhile, the urban populations have held steady or increased. The state has launched a goose banding study to find out why.
For the second year, Mikal Moore, a waterfowl specialist for the department, and other biologists brought nets June 19 to the Tri-Cities to trap, band and collar Canada geese as part of a five-year research program into the lifestyles of urban and rural geese.

Biologists and volunteers caught nearly 300 geese at Columbia Park in Kennewick and at Wade Park in Pasco, noting the age and sex of each captured bird before attaching a leg band.

Adult geese also were fitted with white neck collars with visible numbers and codes, which will allow biologists and bird watchers to track them by sight year-round. The banding was timed to occur while geese were molting and thus unable to fly.

Moore said biologists and volunteers had hoped to recapture some of the 309 geese that were banded in 2008 in the Tri-Cities to help in determining annual survival and hunter harvest.

Up to 500 Canada geese will be captured and banded this year in the Tri-Cities, Grant County, Sprague Lake, the Pend Oreille River in northern Washington, and locations in Spokane, Wenatchee, Chelan and Yakima, Moore said.

Biologists will compare migration, reproduction and hunter harvest of urban and rural geese through returns of bands and collar-sighting reports.
It seems unclear how much hunting has affected the goose populations. One goal of the study is to set proper bag limits for future hunting seasons. It would be interesting to know if this trend holds true elsewhere in the country, or if it is just limited to Washington.

As with all banded birds, recovered bands or band sightings should be reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory.