I am a bird lover and I began to feed Canada geese
last year in Centennial Park (Howard County, Maryland) with commercial
wild goose feed (such as cracked corn, wheat and Kaytee Wild Duck
and Goose Food).
The park has a "Please do not feed the wildlife" sign.
It is explained in the nearby bulletin that the wildlife's digestive
systems are not designed for a human's food. I fed the geese
with bird food only. The bulletin also states that if birds become
on being fed, they become less able to feed themselves and will
multiply in an area that may not support their population. The
bulletin says that such overcrowding causes destruction of habitat,
pollution of the lake, and ultimately, disease and starvation.
However, according to research I’ve done and my experience,
that is not the case. Canada goose populations are not established
based on the availability of food supplied by people. Geese use
more biologically relevant criteria in determining whether a region
is suitable for them to carry out their daily or seasonal activities
(Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese – www.canadageese.org
). My feeding experience exactly verifies that research result.
Nowadays, there are usually only a few geese staying in Centennial
Park although I fed hundreds of geese there during last winter
and early spring.
The grass in the park has never been damaged by the
geese even though, occasionally, there are flocks of migrating
geese that feed on it. On land, Canada geese feed only on tender
grass in the park. As soon as there is no abundant tender grass
available, they stop feeding and leave the park until new, lush
grass has grown again. It has been reported that a luxuriant growth
of clover was found in a field on which the geese had fed before.
It proved to the farmer's satisfaction that the alleged damage
by the geese was imagined and not real. There was plenty of rain
that particular spring which may have helped (Nova Scotia Museum).
As a matter of fact, Canada geese are very aware of weather change,
and their stop-off places are usually free of severe weather conditions.
The arrival of the Canada geese in the northern regions of America
has always been the signal that spring has come.
I have found that after geese feed on the wild bird
food as a supplement to the food they find on their own, their
feathers become shinier and more protective against bad weather,
such as rain, snow and wind.
In addition to Canada geese, I feed various wild
birds with pounds of seeds and grains daily in my balcony. These
birds also become healthier after they feed on the bird food that
I purchased for them. These wild birds bring to my family their
graceful flight, beautiful songs, and touching moments, for example,
of a male bird tenderly feeding his passionate female. Because
of the birds' frequent stay in our nearby trees, there were just
a limited number of cicadas during this year's cicada season. As
a result, these trees suffered no damage from the cicada, and we
were also free of the deafening sound from the bugs. I have also
observed that the number of mosquitoes has been dramatically reduced
since I began to feed the wild birds last summer. I realize now
that healthy wild birds (including waterfowl) can play a big role
in balancing our environment, improving people's quality of life,
in addition to their loveliness.
Different from other birds, the majestic Canada geese
have a high tolerance for people. Canada geese usually mate for
life in the wild and are deeply devoted to one another. "Sagacity,
wariness, strength and fidelity are characteristics of the Canada
goose which, collectively, are possessed in the same degree by
no other bird," wrote a naturalist many years ago. Geese
are among the very few birds in which the family does not break
at the end of the breeding season; parents and their young raised
during the summer have established strong family bonds and stay
together almost a year. They migrate together in the fall in
flocks containing many other family units. Each family stays
on the wintering grounds (Leslie Day).
The diet of this goose consists mainly of vegetation.
It feeds on grass, rushes and water plants. Geese in the wild do
eat seeds and grains, but to a lesser extent than plant matter.
Watching and feeding wild ducks and geese adds to the enjoyment
of many people's lives (Jim Mason). And my goose-feeding experience
confirms that wild goose food is a welcomed and healthful addition
to the natural diet of these birds.
After last winter's first snow, an injured goose
limped in Centennial Park with the hind part of his body covered
with blood. I scattered the grains to him and he enjoyed feeding
on them very much. Three days later, the cut in his body healed
and his feathers were free of the blood. He stayed in the park
over the winter and he fed frequently on the grains that I poured
to him. In the mean time, his injured leg made steady progress
although it was a very cold winter. Before he flew away from the
park last May, he could walk completely normally.
An orphaned gosling also arrived at the park during
that time (goslings can be identified by their long peeping sound).
He was lovely but a little timid initially. With the additional
nutrition from the grains that I fed him, he successfully survived
his first tough winter in Centennial Park (last winter was the
coldest in 25 years). When he left the park last July, he already
became a very friendly, strong and independent goose.
Early last spring, a pair of geese grazed on the
bank of Centennial Lake. Unfortunately, the male goose had a crippled
right leg and could only walk on his left leg. His mate stood by
him loyally but the eyes of the male goose looked sad and watery.
I scattered the grains to the injured goose and he immediately
enjoyed the feeding. Two weeks later, miraculously, I found that
he could use both his legs again although he still limped a little
on the right leg. Days later, the recovered goose and his mate
left the park, probably to fight for their old nesting place somewhere
I do not know.
It is obvious that Canada geese enjoy wild bird feed
as a supplement (not a substitute) for their own diet. And direct
feeding from people has little or no effect on absolute regional
populations of geese. A substantial portion of park-goers enjoy
the thrill of interacting with wildlife by feeding waterfowl and
consider it to be a legitimate park activity (Coalition to Prevent
Destruction of Canada Geese). Some areas of New York State have
passed strategic feeding laws giving municipalities the option
of restricting the feeding of waterfowl to certain areas in parks
where space permits. If public interaction with wildlife is maintained
or increased, the public will naturally become more protective
of it and less tolerant of wildlife killing. By pushing for feeding
bans, government wildlife managers keep the public both physically
and psychologically distanced from wildlife (Coalition to Prevent
the Destruction of Canada Geese).
In August, I was fined $25 for feeding the geese
in Centennial Park and the following week I was double-fined
$50 for failing to cease feeding geese. I was notified that if I
the geese in the park again, I would be immediately banned from
the park, and if I failed to comply, I would be arrested. The
officer even told me that Canada geese were not supposed to stay
because they are "Canada" geese. He insisted that commercial
wild goose food harmed geese. I asked whether I could just feed
the injured geese, and I was then told that I was not allowed
to do so in the park.
If you would like to contact Dr. Feng and help him
work on setting up strategic feeding areas, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
One of our members, Keith Norris, wrote a long letter
about our responsibility to animals. Here is a quotable reason
for not exploiting or ignoring animals: “We should value all life.”