Sudbury

Domestic goose trades farmyard for life on the lake with Canada geese

Visitors to the Ramsey Lake boardwalk in Sudbury are stumbling across a strange sight this summer: a domestic goose that has fallen in with a flock of Canada geese.
A domestic goose is causing a stir in Sudbury, Ont., after joining up with a flock of Canada geese on Ramsey Lake. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

Visitors to the Ramsey Lake boardwalk in Sudbury are stumbling across a strange sight this summer: a domestic goose that has fallen in with a flock of Canada geese.

With its white body and bright orange beak, the goose stands out in the gaggle of black and grey Canada geese.

Amy Henson, a biologist with Science North in Sudbury, says the bird has drawn a lot of attention over the past few weeks.

"Every day I see people hanging out here right in front of Science North, and they're looking at this guy, and they're like 'What is that?'" she said.

Domestic geese can most often be found on farms, although Science North's Amy Henson says there are instances of the species in the wild. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

The bird likely came from a nearby farm, according to Henson, who said it's not unheard of for a goose to integrate with a different species.

"Geese naturally like to flock up. That's part of their safety mechanism," she explained.

"If the Canada geese maybe at one point in time landed in a farmer's field or close by, the domestic goose was probably like, 'Oh you look like me and I look like you, and safety in numbers, so let's hook up together.'"

Amy Henson is a biologist at Science North in Sudbury, Ont. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

Flying south

Henson predicts the lone goose will be with the flock through the summer, but she's not sure what will happen when it's time for the other birds to head south, since domestic geese generally aren't known for long distance flying.

"There is a good chance that he may get left behind somewhere. He may join up with another flock, or find another place to sort of nest down and hopefully survive the winter."

Chris Blomme, with the Sudbury Ornithological Society, says the goose doesn't look like it has strong wings and it probably cannot fly. He doesn't think it would survive the winter on Ramsey Lake.

"Somebody's going to eventually have to try and capture it, to bring it either to a farm, or to a waterfall area that deals with domestic geese, or even release it at Fielding Park, where the water stays open for the winter," Blomme said.

Chris Blomme, with the Sudbury Ornithological Society, approaches a domestic goose that has integrated with a flock of Canadian geese at Ramsey Lake. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Domestic-Canada goose hybrid?

While the goose remains with the flock over the summer, Henson says it's possible the bird could mate with one of the other geese and produce hybrid offspring.

The science is unclear as to whether those offspring could then reproduce or if they would be infertile, but she points to recent genetic research into hybrid goose species.

"What they think is that when Canada geese and domestic geese do hybridize, there's a good chance that the male offspring might be viable, and be able to produce again."

Henson says people should keep an eye out for unusual-looking goslings with the flock this summer.

About the Author

Robin De Angelis is a multimedia journalist based in southwestern Ontario. She has previously worked as a reporter covering local news in Sudbury. Get in touch on Twitter @RobinElizabethD or by email robin.deangelis@cbc.ca

With files from Markus Schwabe

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