Odd Geese

by Carl Strang

Recently I was walking near Batavia’s island park on the Fox River when I saw this goose family.

As you can see, one is banded. What drew my attention, however, was one particularly odd looking individual among them.

As you can see, the bird on the right has a lot of white on it. Is it simply a leucistic Canada goose? I don’t think so. For one thing, the legs are orange. It also has a dumpier body configuration. This bird appears to be a hybrid between a domestic greylag goose (Anser anser) and a Canada goose (Branta canadensis). Intergeneric hybrids are relatively frequent among waterfowl, but don’t ever go anywhere. For more photos and discussion on Canada-greylag goose hybrids, go to this page connected to the Cornell bird lab.

Now take a look at the goose on the left in that last picture. There is an abnormal wing tip protrusion that may be a case of “angel wing,” a condition that develops in very young geese and results in a permanently flightless adult. This is thought to result from malnutrition, and is associated with people feeding inappropriate foods to the mothers or the goslings. Don’t feed free-living ducks and geese; you can only cause harm.

So here are three distinctive birds in the same small group. It’s tempting to think up a narrative that ties these observations together, but unless there is someone who has a longer-term familiarity with these geese, such a connection will have to remain speculative.

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