Canada Geese

Some Canada geese arrived in Cache Valley in late February Courtesy Mary Heers, Photographer
Some Canada geese arrived in Cache Valley in late February
Courtesy Mary Heers, Photographer

Canada Geese at First Dam Courtesy Mary Heers, Photographer Canada Geese at First Dam
Courtesy Mary Heers, Photographer

At the end of last February, I was delighted to see hundreds of Canada geese settling into the swampy fields by the Logan airport. There was still snow on the ground, but the message was clear: Spring was just around the corner. Soon the mated pairs would be building their nests and raising their families.

Interestingly, just as the goslings are starting to grow their first feathers, their parents are losing theirs. The adults will discard their frayed and somewhat battered flight feathers before growing a whole new set. This molting process takes 4-5 weeks, during which time the geese simply can’t fly.

This is when the folks at the Department of Natural Resources get out their airboats at Ogden Bay. It’s time to round up the flightless geese and slip a small aluminum band on their leg.

So, early morning on June 14, I joined a small group of volunteers at Ogden Bay. I was told to hop on Airboat #4. My job was to lie down on the front lip of the airboat ( just inches above the water line) and grab any geese we got close to.

The driver then punched the accelerator and we shot out across the bay. Soon we were gaining on a goose who heard us coming and picked up his paddling pace. Just as I tried to grab him, he dove down and out of sight in the muddy water. I reached down and came up with a handful of pond weed.

The driver suggested I hook my feet on the side rail and lean out further over the front of the boat.

“Don’t worry, he said. “If you fall out, just stand up. It’s pretty shallow.”

The airboat doesn’t have any brakes, but he promised to circle back and pick me up.

I got braver and caught the next goose. I think the goose was as surprised as I was. I was expecting a fight, but no. The goose settled quietly into a crate, and we were off and going after the next goose. It turns out the shallow water was key to our success. Under ordinary circumstances a goose can dive out of reach, 30 to 40 feet underwater

By the end of the round up the DNR will have caught, banded, and released about 2000 geese.

What we learned from this banding project is that the Canada geese now in Utah will not be going to Canada. Most of the geese banded in Cache Valley will spend the winter in Idaho along the Snake River between Idaho Falls and Twin Falls.

These geese are very adaptable. Where they see open space with a good supply of grass and water, they will move in. Some geese opt out of migration entirely, like the ones who spent last winter at Logan’s First Dam.

As for the ones who leave, we can expect to see the females back here next Spring with a lifetime mate in tow. As for the males – they will go where the females take them.

This is Mary Heers and I’m Wild About Utah


Images Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer
Featured Audio: Courtesy & © Friend Weller,
Bird Sounds Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver,
Text: Mary Heers,
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham,

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Postings

Canada Goose, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology,

Canada Goose, Audubon Field Guide, National Audubon Society,

Canada Goose, Utah Bird Profile, Utah Birds/Utah Valley Birders,
Other Photos: