If you’ve been along rivers, streams, lakes or ponds lately, you may have seen adult Canada geese surrounded by several small yellow goslings.
These young geese grow quickly. After the eggs are laid and incubated for about 28 days, the young hatch and can immediately begin eating. Scientists call this ability "precocial," being born in an advanced state and able to eat right away.
This ability to grow quickly is part of the geese’s adaptation to spending the spring and summer farther north. There is only a short window of good weather with nutritious food to feed the goslings’ much-needed growth.
While rafting a river recently we saw goslings of varying sizes, some almost as big as small chickens while others looked like they had hatched only days earlier. Even though we passed close to the geese and their chicks, the adults rarely honked. In comparison, when we floated the same river in April one year, the geese honked all the time.
Although the adults would often tolerate a lone mallard duck hanging out close by, they would often chase other adult geese away by lowering their heads, sticking out their necks and charging toward the intruder.
The adult geese will lose their feathers this summer, called molting, to replace those damaged from a year’s worth of flying. By the time their feathers grow back, the goslings will have grown feathers, as well. That way they will all be ready to fly south when the cold weather of winter comes and freezes up their watery homes.
The young geese will stay with their parents for about a year before breaking off on their own. By the age of about 3, they will find a mate and begin raising their own family.
— Brett French, firstname.lastname@example.org