Or, 7 Things You Never Knew about these Astonishing Waterbirds
Canada Geese are not just North American anymore. I was kind of gobsmacked to learn that admiring hunters have introduced them to the United Kingdom, Argentina, Chile, The Falkland Islands and even New Zealand.
Maybe you knew this. But did you know….?
- Canada Geese beat the hunters to Northern Europe, flying there all by themselves—ditto the Kamchatka Penninsula, Eastern China and Eastern Siberia. You may also see them in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, but ornithologists insist they’re native to Northern North America.
- If you’ve ever scraped their green droppings off the bottoms of your sneakers, you might have guessed Canada Geese are mostly vegan. However, I have also seen them eating little things they find in the water, which I presume to be fish, insects or crustaceans.
- There are seven subspecies of Canada Goose. I think the geese in my photographs must be Branta canadensis canadensis, aka the Atlantic Canada Goose.
- There is a very similar-looking species called the Cackling Goose, and there are 5 sub-species of Cacklers. I frankly can’t see the difference, but the American Ornithologist’s Union proclaimed Cacklers to be their own species in 2004. Adding to the fun, one Harold C. Hanson proposes 6 species and 200 subspecies. The AOU has understandably urged caution about adopting this proposal.
- All of the geese mentioned above belong to the genus Branta. “Branta” is a pseudo-Latin word, derived from the Old Norse word Brandgàs, meaning “burnt,” a reference to the black color of the Goose’s neck and body. How Old Norse got tangled into binomial nomenclature is a mystery to me.
- The collective noun for Geese on the ground is Gaggle. When they’re flying up high, they’re a Skein or Team—and when flying especially close, they comprise my favorite term, a Plump.
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What about the Brent (or Brant) goose? Another mighty migrant!
Oh, David, how I’d love to photograph a Brent! Ingenious birds, that learned to switch their diet to survive. I’m aware of the Brents who migrate from the Arctic Circle to Puget Sound —beautiful geese! Are there others I should learn about?