|A Canada Goose seen recently at Sandy Hook with a bright orange neck collar.|
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Who Put the Neck Collar on the Goose?
It was a cold winter's day. High temperatures were well below freezing, barely getting to 27 degrees.
Still, the sun was bright and the sky was blue so I decided to head out to Sandy Hook around mid-day. Despite the cold temperatures and brisk north winds off the bay, I was able to spot the usual birds: Buffleheads, Brant, Black Ducks, mergansers, and mallards, to name just a few.
The highlight of the day, however, was seeing an ordinary Canada Goose with a bright orange band around its neck with white letters and numbers written on it. I wonder when and where did that band come from and who put it on? The band said H9W2. Fortunately the print on the band was large enough to see from a safe distance.
Keep in mind, Canada Geese aren't endangered species. They are so widespread and common that many people consider them pests. Even so, this was the first time I saw a neck band around a goose, or any bird for that matter. This was special.
Although I did see a shiny silver metal band on its right leg, the print was way too small to get any information. The neck band was big and long. The numbers were easy to read. It also looked so tight and uncomfortable. I felt sorry for the poor bird. It was clear that this goose was being used as an object for a specific scientific study. But for what?
Looking around, I couldn't find anyone or any other birds with bands around their necks, legs, or any other body parts. Yet, the bird was not alone. There were about 30 other Canada Geese resting, feeding on grass from open patches of snow melt, and drinking water from a puddle in a parking lot. They looked exhausted and didn't honk at all. The birds didn't even attempt to fly. They just seemed to waddle slowly around to rest and feed.
Back at home, I checked the internet in hopes of finding out some information about the banded goose. I went to one website that told me I shoudl report my findings to federal government. So I went to http://www.reportband.gov/, but this website was just for reporting leg bands, not neck bands. Nevertheless, I did manage to send an email to explain what I discovered in hopes of finding some answers.
After surfing the web and searching for answers on Google I kept coming up empty. Can someone please tell me why this poor Canada goose has a bright orange band around its neck?!?!
I went to a USGS website and found that neck bands are put on Canada Geese in the United States and Canada by wildlife scientists to investigate and track routes. The neck bands are called "goose collars."
In general, goose collars are used to study goose populations or track geese as part of a research project. Collars can be easily read from a distance with binoculars or a telescope. This allows researchers to identify an individual bird.
Collars with a combinations of 2 letters and 2 numbers, like the one I found, are assigned by the Bird Banding Laboratory in Laurel, MD. Orange and Blue collars are widely used in the Mississippi Flyway. These collars were part of an extensive effort to track the populations and movements of Canada Geese. Orange collars were used in the Canadian portion of the Mississippi Flyway, and Blue collars were used in the US portion of the Mississippi Flyway.
Wow, it seems you never know what will turn up in or near the shores of Sandy Hook Bay. On a cold winter's day I found a flock of Canada Geese that somewhere and at sometime called the Mississippi River Valley its home. The geese might have flown more than 500 miles to reach the northern Jersey Shore.
Of course, this answer brings to mind more questions like why did the birds take flight away from the Mississippi River Valley to turn up in New Jersey. This was at least a 500 mile journey, why do it in the middle of winter?
Perhaps food and freshwater were scarce. It's possible that due to the serve ice and winter storms out west, the geese flew to coastal waters to find areas with open grass, open water, and slightly warmer temperatures. Then again maybe the reason is something totally different.
Whomever said bird-watching was boring never met a Canada Goose with an orange neck collar before.