“Surplus” geese are released from a pen after volunteers banded 200 of their fellows at the Campbell River estuary last summer.

“Surplus” geese are released from a pen after volunteers banded 200 of their fellows at the Campbell River estuary last summer.

Birds of a feather flock … to all kinds of places

A program tracking around 200 Canada geese in the Campbell River estuary has revealed that several birds are settling in the community from the United States.

Cynthia Bendickson, a biologist working on the goose banding project, told city council at its Monday night meeting that the results are eye-opening.

She said that of the 200 geese that were collared with tracking devices, 163 of them moved from the estuary this winter to other locations.

“The furthest migration distance was 885 kilometres which is to Cave Junction, Oregon which is just off the northern California border,” Bendickson said. “The closest migration distance is actually to the Norm Wood Environmental Centre (near Painter’s Lodge).”

Bendickson said 18 of the geese tracked migrated to the United States.

“So that’s almost 10 per cent, which is quite a large number,” she told council.

The project, which was led by the Campbell River Environmental Committee with representation from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the City of Campbell River, local biologists and interested citizens, started in 2015. The birds were fitted not only with collars but metal leg bands which Bendickson said will stay on the geese for life and which do not hurt the birds or impact their flight or feeding patterns.

The purpose of the banding was to determine how many geese, non-native to the estuary, are flying in and causing damage to valuable habitat on Baikie Island.

Bendickson said there are roughly 100 to 150 local Canada geese but each summer between 1,000 and 1,300 non-native geese congregate in the estuary to lose and replace their flight feathers, a process known as moulting. It was during this four to six week time frame when the geese can’t fly that the birds were banded.

At Monday’s council meeting, Bendickson cited a few of the results from the banding process.

She said that “153 F is a local and hung out in the Campbell River area. One hundred seventy-four has been going back and forth between Campbell River and the Oyster River, particularly the farms around Shelter Point and Hamm Road (while) 105 F strictly went and migrated to the Comox Estuary. He’s been hanging out there since September.”

Another goose spent the winter at a golf course in Duncan.

Bendickson said it’s all valuable information and all parties hope to continue monitoring the birds beyond this August when funding for the project runs out.

Bendickson said next steps include potentially coming up with a management plan for the non-native geese but ideally not until the counts this summer have been completed.

“What happens this summer will lead to potential management actions or not,” Bendickson said. “So we could potentially be working on a management strategy after that, or plan. I think management actions could be a long process potentially and it will require public consultation and public input.”

Mayor Andy Adams said he’s looking forward to what comes next.

“Good luck with monitoring and tracking,” he said. “We look forward to having you come back and explain what the management alternatives or practises may be should that be the next step.”

Campbell River Mirror