Make Way for Goslings in Morningside Park

(This post is part of Watery Wednesday, a weekly  nature blog compilation.)

The goslings are here!

For weeks, the mother goose in Morningside Park has been spending her days hunkered down on a hidden nest on the little island in the pond, while the father patrolled the area, fearlessly chasing away big dogs and warning humans to keep their distance.

Tables are turned on Papa Goose

Canada geese mate for life, and return each year to nest in the same area. Assuming, that is, they ever leave the area. Geese are increasingly staying through the winter in northern regions that once were used as breeding grounds or migration stop-overs.

After an absence of four days, I returned to the park on Wednesday, but couldn’t find the geese. I feared the worst: something had destroyed the eggs.  And then, from around the far side of the island, the entire family appeared: mother, father, and four fuzzy-headed, yellow goslings.

That fuzzy line is four fuzzy babies.

The mother seemed to be bursting with energy, and desperate for a good bath. While Dad stayed close to the babies, she repeatedly submerged beneath the surface, leaving only choppy white water to mark her presence.

Where's Mom?

She’d emerge in a great spray of droplets with an exuberant flapping of wings. She rolled around and even somersaulted in the water.

Finally, after swimming vigorously in circles, she shook herself out like a dog and rejoined the family with much wiggling of her tail feathers.

She spent several minutes preening.

Meanwhile, the babies practiced their diving skills. Buoyant little fluffballs, they bobbed up to the surface after each dive like tiny boogie boards held forcibly under water and then released.

Today, two days later, the babies already look bigger, stronger and more adept, and the parents, while always alert, appear almost serene.

A gaggle of talented pre-school artist-naturalists sketched and painted the landscape and animals,

Artist at work

while the goose family hustled across the path

to graze on the lush grass

Geese are precocial birds; unlike altricial songbirds, which hatch naked and helpless, goose babies hatch fully feathered and ready to rumble. They walk almost immediately; within a day, they’re swimming, diving and feeding themselves.

Since the babies are immediately mobile, it’s important that all eggs hatch at almost the same time. Most birds, including geese, lay one egg each day until the clutch is complete. The eggs of altricial birds hatch in the order they were laid, so the first baby to hatch may be several days older than the youngest. This gives the first-hatched bird a tremendous advantage in competing for food and a higher survival rate. But geese wait for the entire clutch to be complete, or nearly complete, before they begin incubating the eggs; the babies hatch on the same day and develop at the same rate.

Goose kids stay with their parents for about a year before striking out on their own. Even then, they’re not ready to settle down, but spend another year or two learning the ropes of adulthood and, like young humans, experimenting with relationships. Some geese pair up as yearlings but these relationships rarely last. Most pairs don’t settle down to breed successfully until the age of three or four, by which time they have both eaten and sowed a few wild oats.

Morningside’s goslings have a long way to go.

Time to head home for goslings …

and children

Explore posts in the same categories: 2010, Birds, In the City, May, Wildlife/Natural History

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19 Comments on “Make Way for Goslings in Morningside Park”

  1. […] Morningside Park goose family seems to have vanished into thin air.  As far as I can tell, no one has seen the geese for at […]

  2. […] few days later, as I was on my way to Morningside Park to check on the goslings, I ran into Victor, carrying a bag of […]

  3. Denise Says:

    Lovely scenes of the goose family, those little ones are adorable, and of course so is the little boy.

  4. Cai Says:

    they are so cute!!!

  5. Melissa Says:

    Thank you to everyone who has visited or left a comment.

  6. I wonder if she had feather mites from the nest and was trying to get rid of them?

    • Melissa Says:

      You know, that occurred to me, too. She spent pretty much all day, day after day, on the nest, making her, well, a sitting duck for nest parasites. She seemed to settle down completely after her vigorous dunking & preening, and I haven’t seen the behavior since, so I hope it worked for her.

  7. HoodPhoto Says:

    They are ADORABLE!!!

  8. okephoto Says:

    Wondeful series of photographs. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Cute little gooslings! :)

  10. I love this sweet family story!

  11. ewok1993 Says:

    Oh what an adorable post. Love the photos, the first one is so cute of the babies and the dog chasing the goose is so funny.

  12. A Garden of Threads Says:

    That was great, some of the tale was new information to me, thanks for sharing. They are so cute when they are small. Wonderful pictures.

  13. AWE! What could be more inspiring than to see kids out enjoying nature!

  14. eileeninmd Says:

    Wonderful photos. The goslings are so cute!

  15. daddy0 Says:

    Wow!!!Fascinating. Keep us posted. We love it.

  16. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Good Morningside, Out walking the dog. Out walking the dog said: Make Way for Goslings in Morningside Park: […]

  17. KENNECTED Says:

    Super Cute! I gotta get over there and snap a few pics!

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