The Iowa skies are getting louder. This year’s crop of giant Canada geese are on the wing. A sight to behold, the youngsters’ initial flights are entertaining -- sometimes humorous -- events. Facing into the breeze, the flights begin with an awkward, running start. Like an airplane taxiing down the runway, the wing flapping goslings steadily gain momentum until the birds are suddenly airborne.

Many appear surprised that it’s really happening -- “I can fly!”

Gaggle of geese

A gaggle of geese getting ready for their winter trek.

A goose’s first flights are teetering, clumsy, and short-lived. Most last for less than 50 yards; terminating with an off balance, crash landing. Undaunted, the youngsters celebrate the feat with cooperative neck stretching, more wing flapping, and exuberant vocalizations. Practice makes perfect. Give them another week or two on the wing, and the flights will go for hundreds of yards; sometimes for miles. By the time autumn winds chill the landscape, the adolescent honkers will be ready to accompany their parents on their first southbound migration.

Learning to fly

A gangly gaggle of goslings “taxi down the runway” at the Fisherman’s Parking Lot at Little Clear Lake. Although some late hatched Canadas have not yet attained the power of flight, most youngsters have successfully tested their wings and are currently enjoying an aerial view of the Iowa landscape.

Final thought: In spite of this year’s late snow melt and cool, wet spring; statewide goose production appears to have been excellent during 2019. Across north central and northwestern Iowa’s “Marsh Country,” spring goose broods were everywhere. Giant Canada geese are devoted parents and goslings enjoyed phenomenal survival – even in gang broods containing twenty or more young. The modern-day restoration of Iowa’s giant goose flock remains one of our most remarkable, and recreationally important, outdoor achievements.

Big stretch

An adolescent Canada goose stretches its wings.

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Enjoy more wildlife tales online at Washburn’s Outdoor Journal at iawildlife.org/blog


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