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Nesting Canada Geese in Minnesota

Each year between the end of May and the beginning of June another waterfowl migration takes place over Minnesota. But this isn't a migration that Minnesota duck and goose hunters take any part in. Long strings of noisy, young Canada geese. Heading north as they search for tender shoots of fresh greens to fuel their growth. Then there are the geese that made it back to the area months before this convoy of juvenile birds. These are the older, adult birds. Adults are the pairs of large Canada geese that can be found nesting in April and May. Known as "breeding pairs," they make their way north much earlier in the spring.

These birds have one mission: Rush back to previously successful nesting grounds to earn their spot to nest. Some areas are more successful nesting sites than others, human activity and predators can influence nesting success. During this time in Minnesota, winter is finally melting away. An average sized cattail pond, once thawing begins, will support 2 to 3 pairs of nesting geese. At this time of year it's common to hear geese before seeing them. Geese are very vocal when establishing their "turf", fighting hourly for days on end.

As the first inkling of warm weather occurs and the ice covering the pond is gone, the turf wars are over. Pairs nest and the goslings hatch about a month later. The gander and the goose (male and female) keep their offspring close for protection. Within 1 to 2 days the goslings will leave the nest. As they grow, they start to venture out and join the other families using the same water source. The combined group is known as a gaggle. The combining of the goslings can be tense for the adults as the first encounters occur. As the encounters transpire without any complications, they become comfortable around each other. For the most part, gaggles only occur in high success nesting sites. These sites lack predators and are most commonly residential areas.

The goslings grow quickly as summer warms up. Although they grow fast, flying isn't possible until August. Conveniently, adult geese undergo a molting phase. During the process they lose their flight feathers and their ability to fly. By the time their flight feathers grow back, the goslings have gained their flight feathers as well. Young geese now have the feathers they need to fly but haven’t learned the skills of flying. Geese spotted flying in August is always interesting, it's obvious who's new to the air and who is not. This is the time of the season when they learn how to fly. This is most evident when they land. Landings aren't typically graceful the first few times.

The sight of the springs hatch, airborne for the first time is a sign summer is phasing into fall. It's an exciting time for duck and goose hunters. A brisk fall morning, watching the sunrise from the blind is just around the corner.

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