Manicured lawns, retention ponds, business campuses and golf courses provide excellent habitat for Canada geese. They often build nests on the ground near water, especially in low-lying areas prone to flooding. They have been known to nest on elevated sites on rocky ledges, above muskrat mounds or lodges, or in parking lots.
Canada geese mate for life and usually arrive at breeding grounds as mated pairs. Females lay five to seven creamy- white eggs, which hatch in May. The young leave the nest within 24 hours and usually fly within 70 days.
From late June to late July, Canada geese lose their flight feathers and their ability to fly. They can be aggressive during this time if they feel that their nests or their young are threatened and may hiss at or chase people who unwittingly venture too close.
Flocks consist of families or groups of families, depending on the time of year. They fly in groups of up to several hundred, often in V formations, which may cut wind resistance for the birds at the rear.
Canada Goose Deterrents
Many deterrents last for only a short time. These include plastic or live swans, fake alligators, brightly colored streamers or balloons, and methyl anthranilate, an additive in powdered grape drinks that irritates the skin.
For long-term solutions, landscape open spaces and the perimeters of ponds with native shrubs and grasses; Canada geese do not like areas with obstructed views or where predators may hide.
Mallards typically live in wetlands or open waters, such as lakes or ponds. They are common, however, in residential areas, especially near stormwater-management ponds, swimming pools or garden ponds.
Mallards are seasonally monogamous, switching mates each year. The female lays an average of seven to 10 eggs and incubates them for about 23 days. The male leaves after the first week of incubation to join the male flocks. The female is responsible for raising the young and usually produces one brood a year. After the last egg hatches, she takes her young to water within 24 hours. This trip can be up to 1 mile. The young are able to fly within 42 to 60 days. Females are known to return to successful nesting sites.
Mallards will usually migrate south during the winter looking for open water. During mild Chicago winters, they may stay year-round.
If You Find a Duckling or Gosling
Young waterfowl occasionally get separated from the broods on their way to water after hatching. If you find a lone duckling, bring it to Willowbrook Wildlife Center for captive rearing. If you find a gosling, you may be able to reunite it with its family or another family of Canada geese. To reunite a gosling:
- Find a pond with young geese of similar size.
- Distract the parents.
- Place the gosling near others at the pond.
- Walk away and observe from a distance to see if the animal has been accepted. If it isn't, bring it to Willowbrook.
If You Find a Duckling
Ducklings should be treated differently because adult ducks won't accept babies that do not belong to them. Do not try to foster them; always bring orphaned ducklings to a licensed rehabilitator for care.
Reuniting or fostering efforts need to be done within 24 hours of finding the lost hatchling to prevent imprinting or taming. Humans can never provide the same care as the real parents, and it is always best to have young raised by their own species. If reuniting is unsuccessful, however, Willowbrook Wildlife Center will accept Canada geese and mallards for captive rearing.
Harmful Effects of Feeding Mallards and Geese
For centuries, waterfowl have sought out and fed on highly nutritious marsh and grassland plants. These preservation patterns are passed on to each succeeding generation. Their survival ultimately depends upon their ability to make use of naturally occurring food and habitat. Humans disrupt these patterns and harm duck and goose populations whenever they begin to feed these wild animals.
Urban environments can provide resources for small populations of waterfowl; but when thousands concentrate in areas because of easy handouts, many lose their fear of people and adapt habits that conflict with humans. Of increasing concern is the effect overpopulation has on parks, forest preserves, golf courses and residential lawns, where large populations of birds graze and defecate on the grass. Excess nutrients in ponds caused by droppings may also result in water-quality problems, such as noxious algal blooms in summer.
Spread of Disease
Food handouts often result in large numbers of birds competing for limited supplies in small, concentrated areas. Such crowding, combined with the stresses of less nutritious food and harsh weather, increases their susceptibility to life-threatening diseases, such as avian cholera, duck plague and avian botulism. These diseases have the potential to kill large numbers of waterfowl.
An infected bird may spread disease to other birds by infecting the water supply. When the birds are scattered over a large area, this does not pose a serious problem. However, when the birds are bunched together in urban areas, their chances of contracting disease increase, and the result may be disastrous.
Public Health Concerns
The Illinois Department of Public Health has shown that a small number of birds in DuPage County carry West Nile virus, which is transmissible to humans through mosquitoes. Humans are not at risk simply due to the presence of birds in the area, but the presence of mosquitoes is a risk factor.
Canada geese and mallards can carry intestinal parasites that can cause disease in humans but only if a person ingests a bird’s feces. Practicing basic hygiene and watching toddlers usually prevents problems.
In summer, botulism can appear at some ponds. Humans are usually not at risk, but outbreaks can endanger pets that eat or drink at affected sites.
What Not To Do
- All native birds, including Canada geese and mallards, are protected by the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is illegal for any person to possess birds, dead or alive, nesting material, eggs, feathers or bones of a bird without the proper permits from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the state of Illinois. It is also illegal to harm or kill a protected bird species, and it is illegal to remove or destroy nesting material from a nest once an egg is laid. The law does not protect three nonnative birds: the pigeon (rock dove), the English house sparrow and the European starling.
- Never move young from the nest.
- Do not use poisons. They are inhumane and may be illegal. They can also result in secondary poisoning of raptors, wild scavengers and neighborhood pets.
- It is illegal to keep wild animals, even for a very short time. They have special nutritional, housing and handling needs that you are unlikely to be able to provide. Inexperienced individuals who attempt to raise or treat them inevitably produce unhealthy, tame animals that cannot survive in their natural habitats.
Willowbrook Wildlife Center
If you come across a wild animal and are concerned, leave it alone. Call Willowbrook Wildlife Center for advice at (630) 942-6200. The center is located at 525 S. Park Blvd. in Glen Ellyn and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except select holidays. Recorded messages provide general information for callers when the center is closed.