Episode 30: Geese Banding Transcript


Goose Roundup


[Music playing.]  

Hey there and welcome back to Nature Boost.  I'm Jill Pritchard with the Missouri Department of Conservation.  When researching the most common human fears and phobias, snakes and heights are usually in the top five.  Others are afraid of death; some are afraid of public speaking.  None of those really bother me as much as something else.  

[Goose honking]

>>  That's right.  Call me crazy, but I am absolutely petrified of Canada geese.  They're big, they can be territorial, they have those tongues that have jagged edges on the sides.  To me, these waterfowl are just all around terrifying.  But one hot June morning, I faced my fears and decided to tag along on an MDC Goose Roundup.  

>>  I'll pull it up.  

[Goose honking.]  

>>  Every summer usually in June to early July, MDC staff across the height conduct geese roundups, or banding events.  The idea is to collect population data of Canada geese and learn how and where they migrate year to year.  I spoke with MDC's migratory game bird coordinator Andy Raedeke while he and his staff were conducting a banding at Binder Lake in Jefferson City last month.  

>>  This is really one of the most important ways we monitor the status of this population by putting one of these bands on, we get an idea of how many survive.  The way we do that, is hunters and others if they see a band or harvest a bird with a band, they report that number.  So, we know how many of our birds of our banded birds have been harvested.  So, it is a great way to keep track of that.  We can also keep track of distributions of birds and see where they are going.  So that is also helpful.  We can use it for the timing of duck seasons, or in this case, goose seasons.  

>>  And some of the birds already have bands.  

>>  Exactly.  So, on those birds, we will record the information so we will know how, what year they were banded.  Sometimes we'll catch birds that were banded five, six, maybe even ten years ago.  Some of these geese can get pretty old and so it's another fun part of it, I guess.  

>>  What's the lifespan of a goose?  


A goose?  


>>  A goose?  Yes.  They can be fairly long lived.  Most will live three or four years or somewhere in there.  But you can get birds that are ten plus years old.  

>>  Man, that's a lot longer than I expected.  Did you hear that loud flapping while Andy was talking?  That's because he was holding a goose while I was interviewing him.  How was that possible?  Why didn't the goose just fly off and go do goose stuff?  Well, it turns out these bandings are done in the early summer months because geese are molting.  

>>  So, there will be a period of time in the summer where they can't fly because they are replacing all their primary feathers.  That is why we band them at this time of year, so you can basically herd them to shore and into a coral.  

[Music playing with geese honking in the background.]  

>>  If you happen to be out for an early morning walk in June or early July and see one of these events, it's quite the scene and can be kind of loud.  To move the geese out of the water and get them into the coral on land, field staff use boats or kayaks and sometimes even RC boats are herd the waterfowl together.  

>>  The lady with her dogs over there  . . . they're flipping out.  It's a pretty big spectacle.  

[Geese honking]

>>  Watching all these boats herd these geese in here like sheep.  Got a few stragglers still out on the water.  

Once in the corral, which is basically just a netted open cage; staff will pick up a goose, record its band number if it is already banded, or hand it off to a biologist to band if it doesn't have one.  

At the second location at County Park Lake in Jeff City, I was a little less intimidated because there were a lot of goslings, which were pretty cute.  

>>  Hey, Brady, you got banding pliers?  

>>  Andy, most of these seem pretty young.  

>>  Yeah, we've got some goslings here, yep.  

>>  What's the cut off that you band them?  

>>  Oh, we will band them fairly small.  The main thing is if the leg and foot is big enough that the band doesn't slip off.  

>>  Gotcha.  

>>  Because it won't . . . yeah, it won't hurt them at all, so.  

>>  You can tell by looking at the feathers about their age?  How old they are?  

>>  Yeah, there are a few different clues.  You can look at the feathers.  A goose, the cheek patch, on an adult goose will be white and it will be a very distinct delineation between the black and white on the neck as well on the collar from where the neck and the breast starts.  That's one clue.  

The juvenile geese will also have a notch tail feather, it is kind of where their original tail was that they had lost.  So, if there is a V notch you can tell it is a juvenile goose that way, too.  

See, this is an adult male, too.  With the adult males, from fighting and stuff they will actually develop a little bit of a spur.  If you feel right there, it is kind of just a hard bone.  You can see where that would hurt if you got knocked with that.  

>>  Oh, yeah, I feel it.  Wow!  

>>  Yeah.  


>>  Then on the females, often times they will have what we call a brood patch from when they are nesting and have been incubating on the nest.  They will have new feathers at this time of year where those old feathers have been replaced.  They will look a little different color.  

>>  Oh, okay!  Gotcha.  And they do mate for life, is that right?  

>>  Yes, they sure do.  

>>  Aw, that's so romantic.  

[Music playing.]  

>>  The sight and sound of migrating Canada geese flying overhead signals spring and fall across North America.  Through these banding efforts, Missouri biologists have learned a lot about their travels.  

>>  One of the coolest things.  This is from a long time ago that we learned with banding these geese is, well, and others knew it too, but.  At this time of year, I was mentioning they molt and are flightless.  But the birds that don't breed, a lot of them, I guess when they are three or four, they will reach breeding age.  But before that, some of the non-breeders, instead of molting in Missouri they will fly all the way into northern Canada for the summer to lose their feathers there.  

>>  Oh, wow!  

>>  Yeah, so it's really, it's interesting in the fall we will see birds that banded in Missouri harvested in Manitoba and Minnesota and those are birds coming back to Missouri.  So, when people say, oh, these geese don't migrate . . . they do!  That's in the summer.  They are gone, they typically leave late May and will come back the end of September.  So that is one of the reasons our goose season doesn't open until October.  You know, we were kind of waiting until all the geese are back in Missouri.  

>>  Andy, do you hunt geese?  

>>  I do, yeah.  Mihm.  Yeah.  Missouri has really great goose hunting opportunity.  It's funny.  Often times you hear people say, oh, we have so many geese in Missouri but our population of geese that nest in Missouri is only about 50,000 geese.   Now if you go to Minnesota, their nesting population is more like almost 300,000 geese.  

>>  Oh my gosh, can you imagine?  Wow!  


>>  Yeah, but we have a lot of geese that migrate.  These larger sized ones that migrate from Minnesota, Iowa, southern Manitoba.  Then there is another population that nest along the coast of the Hudson Bay in northern Manitoba, and they are a little smaller.  They are called Eastern Prairie population geese or interior geese, and they migrate into Missouri, too.  So, we have a lot of geese that migrate into Missouri, as well as the ones that nest here in Missouri.  

>>  These geese bandings are happening all across?  

>>  They are, yes, over the next couple of weeks.  We do them all over the state because we want to have a good distribution of banded birds, so we know what the whole population in the state is doing.  Then we actually have a quota of the number of bands of birds that we need to band in Missouri for the fly away, so we have a whole idea of what the population is doing fly away wise, not just the Missouri birds.  

>>  They can get pretty unruly with you handling them.  

>>  Yeah.  

>>  That one doesn't know where it's going.  It's confused.  

>> No.  [Laughing.]  That one is a little confused.  I don't know . . .   

>>  It's going into the woods.  

>>  I don't know . . . the water is that way.  

>>  See ya!  


>>  It just walked  . . .

>>  Well, I don't know.  He's confused.  He's been upside down for a while.  

[Music playing.]  

[Goose honk.]  

>>  Well, you may be wondering did I get the chance to come face to face with my ultimate fear and hold a goose?  And I am happy to report . . . I did.  It was brief and I am pretty sure I blacked out, but I will say, a goose is heavier than I expected.  I learned a lot by tagging along on banding efforts and I want to thank MDC's Andy Raedeke for shining some light on this waterfowl species.  They are a little less scary to me now . . . but only a little.  

To learn more about Canada geese, visit our website at missouriconservation.org.  I'm Jill Pritchard with the Missouri Department of Conservation encouraging you to get your daily dose of the outdoors.  

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