Human life has been disrupted by the novel coronavirus pandemic, but the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) is reminding everyone nature continues on. With the onset of spring, executive director Holly Lillie said it’s time to proactively deter migrating Canada Geese from nesting in unsafe locations.
“They are an earlier migrant,” she said. “Some have already returned. Usually, the more hardy birds come back so that they can get the best breeding grounds.”
When the geese return to Canada, Lillie said, they begin looking for places to nest. Geese prefer locations that are high up and near a water source. Unfortunately, that can often lead to conflict between the birds and humans.
“What this looks like, a lot of the time, is tall city buildings, balconies and things like that,” she said. “These are often selected as ideal nesting sites.”
Permitting geese to nest in an unsafe urban location can creates risks for all involved. While Lillie said newborn goslings can safely descend from a height of about three storeys in search of water, any higher poses a danger to the young birds.
At that point, human intervention may become necessary to safely relocate the goose family closer to water, but she said trying to capture a full-grown goose on top of a rooftop or balcony could result in a slip or fall. Geese are a notoriously aggressive bird, Lillie added, and approaching the nest could lead to a human injury as the parent protects its baby.
This year, as many businesses close due to COVID-19, AIWC is especially concerned that temporarily unoccupied buildings will become home to Canada geese.
“Geese are protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, and as such, it is illegal to destroy or disturb their nests if there are birds or eggs in them,” she said.
Considering the safety risks, Lillie said it is better to take early steps to deter geese from nesting in an area that could lead to conflict with humans. Home and business owners should block or net off open outdoor areas like balconies and gardens. Netting should be bird-safe and checked daily to ensure that animals don’t become entangled, she said.
“Typically, geese will return to the same location year after year,” she said. “If you know that a goose attempted to nest on your balcony or other high outdoor space last year, it’s very likely they will return.”
Because geese return early in the year, Lillie noted that now is the time to take preventative steps. AIWC continues to monitor its wildlife hotline, and anyone with questions can call 403-946-2361.
“If people have questions – you know, they’re seeing geese around and they’re not sure if it’s them potentially scouting for a nesting site or something, definitely give us a call,” she said. “We want to help prevent geese from nesting.”