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Fun Facts About Canada Geese

1/12/2017 | Articles & Alerts

The inaptly-named Canada Geese (Branta canadensis maxima, from the Latin for “large honking nuisance”) found in the Philadelphia area are decidedly non-migratory.  They nest and winter here, befouling lawns and annoying office dwellers and residents all year long.

Did you know that in 1935, there were no Canada Geese nesting in Pennsylvania.  They are now found in every Pennsylvania county (source : PA Game Commission).  When your building wins (loses?) the goose lottery, and yours is the proclaimed the “Roof of the Day”, it sounds like B-52s are landing above your head.  Lots of them.  And when they cross streets, they do so on foot – their large, powerful wings notwithstanding – and do so single-file.  So, in addition to being loud nuisances, they’re also feathered jerks.

“Canada” Geese (they should really be called “Lansdale Geese” because that’s about as far north as the local population ever travels ) are also protected by Pennsylvania and federal law.  You can chase them, scare them, or otherwise harass them, but you can’t kill them without a permit.

Unfortunately, harassing them is of limited effect.  They are apparently very smart, and quickly catch on to the fact that fake owls, loud noises and visual scare tactics (such as shiny mylar balloons) pose no actual threat.  Dogs trained to chase, but not eat, the geese may be your best bet.

Even their eggs are protected!  You must register with the Food and Wildlife Service before destroying nests or eggs, and you are required to have first tried (and failed) to eliminate the goose problem through non-lethal methods.  (Who’s their lobbyist?  I want to hire him.)

There are specified hunting seasons for Canada Geese in Pennsylvania; you will need a state hunting license, a federal “duck stamp” and a state “migratory game bird license”.   And, of course, a goose.

Opinions are divided on the edibility of the Canada Goose.  In The Atlantic, a researcher in sustainable agriculture at Iowa State University described them as “yummy … good, lean, rich meat … similar to a good cut of beef.”  On the other hand, on the website of the British Trust for Ornithology (, they are described as being “reputedly amongst the most inedible of birds.”  This from the country that brought the world “Spotted Dick”.  Really.  (It’s some sort of alleged pudding, made with suet pastry (?) and dried fruit.  Draw your own conclusions.)

When Frank Rizzo was Philadelphia’s mayor, he saw to it that the waterfowl along the Schuylkill River were fed regularly during the winter.  There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, of a telephone conversation that his Honor had with a subordinate that went something like this:

            Mayor:             “The ducks along the river are hungry.  Feed them.”

            Subordinate:    “Uh, Mr. Mayor, they’re actually Canada Geese, not ducks.”

            Mayor:             “FEED THE #*(%!^@ DUCKS.”  {slams down phone}

Good luck getting them off your property.