'We have created a beautiful habitat for geese'
CHAMPAIGN — What's good for the goose? Increasingly it's the lawns, fields and retention ponds of the humans they're living with in urbanized areas.
Canada geese have been flocking around Champaign-Urbana and other Illinois cities in gradually growing numbers, thanks in part to new development creating open sources of water for them, experts say.
And dinner is handy around here: The Canada goose spends a large part of the day grazing on grasses, seeds and roots in lawns and farm fields.
"We have created a beautiful habitat for geese," said Dr. Julia Whittington, director of the University of Illinois Wildlife Medical Clinic.
Once Canada geese successfully raise their young somewhere, they're likely to return, multiply some more and attract more geese.
"What's been happening over time is that Canada geese that are utilizing urban areas increase a little bit each year," said University of Illinois Extension Educator Dave Shiley.
Look for many of these gregarious waterfowl to stick around even as the cold weather arrives, at least as long as they can find open water and food, according to Shiley.
And when they do migrate south, it will only be as far as they have to, sometimes just farther south in Illinois, he said.
"They're going to be happy now till things freeze up," Shiley said. "They're not going to go anywhere."
Meanwhile, drivers, watch out — especially in areas with ponds, where geese tend to congregate.
"They don't see the road as danger. They've got grass on one side of the road, maybe grass and water on the other," Shiley said.
Whittington said a fair number of geese are brought to the UI Wildlife Medical Clinic, both due to accidents and fishing line injuries.
For those attempting to get an injured goose to the clinic, Whittington advises approaching slowly with a blanket or towel to cover the wings and head.
Then you can scoop them up and put them in a box, "and they're going to calm down nicely for you," she said.
One thing to keep in mind is that nesting time was in the spring, and this year's goslings are teenagers, Whittington says. They may look adult-size, but they're still learning the ropes in their urban environment.
To some folks, the geese are pests, Whittington says, "but I feel like we created this situation."
Canada geese don't pose any threat to people, she said, though males will defend their nests and the goslings if you venture too close.
"If you approach, they may hiss at you, but it's to tell you to get away from their nest," Whittington said.
Aside from being patient as they cross the road, people can also be kind to their geese neighbors by refraining from feeding them bread and other people food, something Shiley has seen at retention ponds along Prospect Avenue.
Not only is it unhealthy for their diet, "we're reinforcing that lack of fear for humans, and that it's cool to hang out here, and it's safe and I've got food," Shiley said. "We shouldn't reinforce that."
5 things to know about the Canada geese among us
1. They walk in an orderly line because they're hard-wired to follow one another in a "V" formation in flight, taking turns buffering the wind for the others.
2. Ever notice a gaggle of geese grazing and couple of stragglers standing apart? They're standing watch for the others, UI Extension Educator Dave Shiley says.
3. They mate for life, but will remate if one of the pair dies.
4. Canada geese are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Illinois Wildlife Code.
5. They can go about 30 days without feeding if snow is covering their food sources, according to the UI Extension.