Most waterfowl are migratory, flying long distances in the spring and fall between the summer breeding grounds and wintering areas. The migratory birds follow specific migratory route paths through North America. New Jersey is part of the Atlantic Flyway, where the “resident” population of Canada geese head southward from Southern Quebec and the Maritime Provinces of Canada, some making it all the way to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
New Jersey is experiencing a burgeoning population of Canada geese, called “Giant” Canada geese. These geese are non-migratory (resident), nesting within our State and living here the entire year. The non-migratory bird can be up to six pounds heavier, has adapted to urban environments, is tolerant of humans, and has a limited migration range. These resident geese are living longer, reproducing younger, and becoming more aggressive at nesting time than migratory geese. It is estimated that the resident goose population is nearly doubling every five years.
Waterfowl, as their name suggests, are usually found near water. They are capable of flying long distances to and from favorite feeding grounds, which may include agricultural or upland sites. Canada geese are highly adaptable to multiple habitats, equally at home in rural and urban environments, on a pond in a city park, college campus, or golf course, or on a desolate marsh in Alaska.
Canada geese have a remarkable homing instinct, returning each year to the previous site if it was to their liking. This, coupled with their typically long lifespan, compounds the problem of goose-related water quality trouble spots.
These birds have two basic requirements: fresh water for drinking, resting, nesting and escape from predators, as well as tender, succulent vegetation for food. Canada geese are terrestrial grazers. As such, they have a clear preference for tender, mowed, and fertilized turf grasses; these are the highly managed lawns of residential neighborhoods, corporate office parks, college campuses, golf courses, parks, and some airports. They prefer to feed in large open areas with few obstructions that give a full-circle view of potential predators.These birds have a high tolerance for humans and adapt quickly. Thus, the perfect feeding spot that meets all the requirements of the geese is a nice and green, managed lawn near the water which, all too often, is the same habitat enjoyed by humans. And that is where the problems of territorial geese and human conflicts arise.
Problems with geese in urban and suburban areas are primarily caused by giant Canada geese, which are probably the most adaptable of all waterfowl. If left undisturbed, these geese will readily establish nesting territories on ponds in residential yards, golf courses, condominium complexes, city parks, or on farms. Most people readily welcome a pair of geese on a pond. However, they can quickly multiply turning a once-tranquil pond into a troublesome pest problem. A pair of geese can, in 5 to 7 years, easily become 50 to 100 birds. These birds foul ponds and surrounding yards bringing damage to landscaping, gardens, and golf courses. Defense of nests or young by geese and swans can result in injuries to people who come too close. These birds will chase people and snap at them if they perceive their nest is being threatened. For young children, and even adults, it is a frightening experience.
A major problem with Canada geese is their prodigious droppings. Each and every day, a Canada goose residing in New Jersey eats 2-3 pounds of grass and deposits approximately 1-2 pounds of droppings.
The best approach to suburban goose management involves a combination of methods or deterrents, known as an integrated approach. When choosing appropriate methods, the wildlife control operator, working within applicable laws and regulations, must consider the characteristics at the site that are attracting geese and then devise a plan that reduces the preferred site characteristics. There is often a combination of both short-term and long-term solutions for bird control to have a successful program.
Habitat modification includes outright exclusion, such as the installation of a fence around ponds, gardens, and yards or installing overhead grids or netting on ponds, reservoirs, and fish raceways to prevent the geese from landing. Other methods to make a less hospitable environment for geese is to vertically straighten pond banks, to allow ponds to freeze in the winter, eliminate vegetation (nesting/escape cover) in and around ponds, and reduce or eliminate fertilizer use around ponds.
Habitat alteration consists of any technique that eliminates, modifies, or reduces access to areas that provide attractive spots for geese. This often creates a problem for the public because people enjoy having access to lawn areas adjacent to water.
In New Jersey, turf grasses usually consist of bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescues. One way to make the environment less hospitable is to reduce or eliminate fertilizer application and watering. If the grass is allowed to grow to higher lengths, the tender young shoots become more difficult to find under the tougher, more fibrous growth. Another approach to reducing the area of turf is to convert it to non-palatable ground covers. Generally, Canadian geese avoid areas where tall vegetation provides an obstruction to the surrounding areas. Replacing highly managed turf with a vegetative buffer may discourage geese from feeding, nesting, and loafing.
Goose removal - Physical removal of geese from a problem site directly impacts a population problem. Goose relocation requires permits. Moving geese from urban environments can be successful, but not always. Canadian geese have very strong homing instincts, and they tend to return to their previous nesting area. Harvesting (hunting) will inevitably create bad publicity and urban flocks can be difficult to hunt because of the obvious hazards to people.
There are methods that can help to reduce the reproduction rate of Canadian geese by removing eggs. It is a challenging way to control the population since reduction efforts must be nearly 100% in a given area since even leaving some of the eggs will dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the tactic. The eggs cannot be removed, or the geese will just lay more eggs. Some of the most common methods of impacting the eggs are addling, puncturing, and oiling. Puncturing allows harmful bacteria to enter the egg. Addling involves vigorously shaking the eggs found in the nest; the eggs must be shaken to the point that liquid is heard moving around inside.
Oiling eggs works through the principle that oil prevents gases from diffusing through the shell, depriving oxygen from the embryo. The wildlife technician finds the nest, gently moves the geese and coats their eggs with corn oil. Oiling the eggs will not allow the eggs to develop and produce goslings. This is considered extremely humane since no live geese are hurt or killed. The mother goose will continue to sit on eggs and will not lay additional ones, which would be the case if the eggs were destroyed. The geese population is still there, but now the numbers are manageable and even more importantly, no geese are harmed.
Methods of frightening geese include flags, mylar tape (scare tape that flashes in the sun and rattles in the wind), eye-spot balloons (decorated with large owl-type eyes), scarecrows, water spray devices, automatic exploders, pyrotechnics, recorded geese distress calls, and dogs (usually trained border collies) under the supervision of a handler. Auditory deterrents are usually impractical around people and are not allowed in many municipalities; visually frightening devices are quiet, but they may be visually offensive to people since they disrupt the natural beauty of the surroundings.
If your property is experiencing a nuisance bird problem, such as Canadian geese, contact the experts at Cowleys Pest Services today for a Free Estimate! We provide our professional bird control services to both residential and commercial properties all throughout our Mid-Atlantic service area, including: New Jersey and more!