One day last week I was traveling along Myrtle Creek in the Kootenai Wildlife Refuge, going north on the tour route. The creek and ponds were teaming with baby geese, called goslings.
On first sighting a gaggle of goslings, I counted six little scurrying yellow balls of fuzz. The baby geese take about a month to hatch. They are covered with soft feathers called down. Surprisingly they hatch with their eyes open and will leave the nest within 24 hours, following their parents. Baby geese are incredibly impressionable and will follow virtually anything that moves, thinking it to be their mother. They have been known to follow dogs, ducks and humans.
In less than 24 hours after they are born, goslings will be led to water by their parents to learn how to swim. The goslings will be able to dive 10-20 feet underwater by the time they are 1 day old. During the time of raising the goslings the parents will violently attack anything they sense as a threat to their babies, including humans. When a goose feels threatened, it will stretch out its neck and honk loudly. It may also hiss, bite, and slap at the perceived threat with its wings.
It is a wonder of nature that an egg becomes a fluffy, living ball that is capable of walking, swimming, eating, and drinking in about 30 days. This ball of fluff breathes, cries, greets and can feel happiness, sadness, and pain. It can also be shy or aggressive, domineering or dominated, stubborn or laid back. In 10 weeks, this ball of fluff becomes a full-grown Canada goose that can fly high and far, its loud honking, wild voice sounding across the vast sky.
Very early in their life, the baby geese learn to find food and especially, to be aware of many dangers that lurk in the world around them. Footprints, left by a coyote on the ground or a bird of prey circling overhead, are signs they learn to fear.
During the upcoming summer months, the goslings will eat and grow rapidly. Once the parents’ new remiges (main flight feathers) have grown back in, it will be time to teach the fledglings how to fly. Goslings learn to fly between 2-3 months of age. For the first year of their lives, they stay with their parents, and will follow their parents during their first migration before forming into groups with other young geese. As they become more independent of their parents, groups of goslings may join together, forming “gang broods” of up to 50 goslings.
By the time they are two months old, the young Canada geese stop growing and they will be approximately 25 times larger than they were at birth. At the end of the summer, families of Canada geese leave their nesting grounds in search of food in a new territory.
I will be anxious to watch the goslings grow bigger and stronger in the spring and summer. Testing their short, stubby, downy wings that at times will be too big for them as they drag and flop about awkwardly — until they learn to use their wings and in about nine weeks take their first flight. It would be interesting to watch the goslings discover the purpose of their wings, first they will walk, run, swim and dive and eventually fly!
Enjoy Boundary County and its amazing wildlife!