The scientific process

Herding geese

Rounding up flightless geese into a pen (Photo credit – Gareth Harris)

In early July this year, during the moult, an amazing team from Fera, Cotswold Water Park Trust and WWT caught and collared and ringed 153 Canada geese (all in accordance with BTO and Fera/WWT ethics boards) at Cotswold Water Park. Some of the goslings were not large enough to be collared, so these were only ringed with metal BTO rings. All of the birds, of course, were released back onto the lakes on which they were caught as soon as possible.

The birds were kept sheltered and cool before being weighed and measured, so that we have some idea of each bird’s body condition. We also recorded each bird’s sex and age class.

But why all the interest in these Canada geese?

Canada geese are common and widespread but there’s been very little scientific research in the UK into how flocks move about and whether individual birds form stable associations within and between seasons. These are big, heavy birds (our adult Cotswold geese were tipping the scale at between 4kg and 6kg) and their numbers need to be monitored around airports to avoid birdstrike. Like all birds, Canadas are capable of carrying infections, so knowing what causes an infected flock to split up is important.

A big thank you to the Cotswold Water Park Trust for their help and advice, the Fera team, the WWT team and all the land-owners who allowed us access to the lakes.


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