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Don't Feed the Geese

Be Gone Fowl Creature!

It's a sure sign of spring when geese are back on campus (and the bird puns take wing). 

Canada geese at the ARBOR. Photograph by VR Schmalhofer.

 

Though the Canada goose (Branta canadensis) is a year round resident of Indiana, in spring these birds flocks to campus, attracted by the proximity of the White River - and lush, expansive, grassy lawns.  As the vernal equinox approaches, Canada geese become birds on a mission.  Two missions, actually - they are searching for food and places to nest.  With plaintive honks and soleful expressions, they approach unwary students, begging for food.

 

Canada geese are attracted to lawns where they graze on the grass. Photograph by VR Schmalhofer.

 

Thinking about tossing your pizza crust to that apparently starving bird?  Maybe giving the poor thing a piece of your sandwich?  Don't.  A goose's natural diet consists of grasses, aquatic plants, small insects, and fish.  The bread, crackers, and popcorn that people typically feed to geese and ducks are just as much "junk food" for the birds as they are for humans.  These unnecessary dietary additions contribute to health problems among geese.  By filling up on the scraps tossed away by people, geese become more likely to suffer from malnutrition.  A diet rich in simple carbohydrates also causes the birds to experience increased defecation - yes, feeding the geese causes them to poo more - and because geese congregate in areas where there is an abundance of food, when people feed them regularly, the poo really starts to pile up.  This increases the likelihood of disease transmission among geese.  The unsightly, fowl-smelling droppings also create walking hazards on sidewalks and lawns - which is more of a concern for people than for the birds.  

 

While it is difficult to resist the importunate begging of these dinosaur descendants, do not be deceived by the fowl creatures.  Breeding geese are both hungry and potentially aggressive, and woeful honks can quickly turn into angry hissing . . . .  and biting.  Canada geese will defend their nests - vigorously. 

 

Canada goose hissing at the paparazzi. Photograph by VR Schmalhofer.

 

So please don't feed the geese!  Goose turd dodge 'em is a game to be avoided, and we don't want to encourage the feathered fiends to take up residence among the campus shrubberies.

 

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