Canada’s most symbolic animals include the beaver and the loon. These animals are revered for their beauty and association with the country. However, I have become much more familiar with a certain other Canadian animal: the Canadian Goose.
Growing up in a very urbanized area of southern Ontario, I didn’t have much opportunity to confront some of Canada’s most iconic wildlife (other than on the occasional trip to national parks). Wandering the streets of Toronto, Hamilton, or our lovely capital Ottawa, it is much more likely to come face to face with a hissing, honking menace of a bird, otherwise known as the Canadian goose. Encroaching on lawns, ponds, and parks alike, these giant dorky-looking birds innocuously waddle about … until little goslings arrive into the picture, and they turn into a certain type of cartoonish terror.
Google the term “Canada geese,” and you might get pictures of a giant winged menace, attacking whichever unlucky passerby that managed to disturb its territory. Or maybe you’ll come across the hilarious term “cobra chicken,” which, when you think about it, is a very apt description for our feathery friend. In fact, Canada geese have managed to gain such notoriety that the University of Waterloo even runs a “Goose Watch” in the spring to help university students and staff alike avoid aerial attacks from the feathered beasts.
A fearsome cobra chicken in action
Despite the ferocity of nesting geese, one has to admire their tenacity as a species as well. While it may seem like Canada geese numbers are unending these days, there was actually a time when these animals had almost gone extinct. Due to a combination of overhunting and loss of habitat, Canadian geese populations dipped to near-extinct levels in the early 20th century. Luckily, later efforts to restore the goose population have been successful — perhaps even too successful. Canadian geese thrive on healthy grassy lawns (of which there are plenty these days), leading their numbers to land at around a whopping 1.93 million in southern Ontario alone! Today, these geese have a habit of coming into conflict with humans, from angry goose attacks to greater problems, such as eating crops or flying into plane engines.
Despite their ferocious behaviour and status as a public nuisance, I actually find myself to be quite fond of these large birds. While geese are known for being highly aggressive during the nesting season, they are actually relatively nice when not defending their home. I have many memories of chasing these awkward birds as a child and despite having a gaggle of small children after their tails, the geese never really did much other than waddle (or sometimes fly) away, in opposition to the many “angry Canada goose memes” on the internet. Canadian geese might not fawn all over you, but at the same time, they really don’t do much if you get too close. If you think about it, in a strange way, it’s actually a pretty good representation of the Canadian spirit — not overly friendly towards strangers, but maintaining civility all the same.
Canada geese also happen to have a rather distinctive presence in the fall season as well. While many geese now choose not to migrate, the sound of honking Canadian geese, flying overhead in that distinctive v-shaped pattern is a beautiful image — one that many Canadians can conjure in their minds and appreciate as well. It also brings to mind another well-loved feature of Canada’s fall weather: brilliantly coloured leaves! Being a country with lots of trees, even near large cities like Toronto, fall weather is definitely one of my favourite parts of Canada, a fact which I am reminded of whenever I see migrating geese.
Nothing like a flock of geese to remind you it’s fall now.
So sure. Canada geese can be annoying, confrontational, and an overall nuisance at times. There’s no doubt that they can sometimes seriously mess with humans — yet somehow, they still manage to worm their way into the fabric of Canadian identity. And for all the trouble that these feathered fellows bring us, I find that I do have a soft spot for them. After all, what they’re really trying to do is live. And we, as humans, just happened to create the perfect living environment for them — lush green lawns, plenty of water, fewer natural predators. It’s hardly unexpected when we find ourselves with some extra fowl. They sure do cause a lot of issues for us, but between the memes, the news, and simply just seeing them when I go outside, I can’t imagine life without them.
And for that, I think the Canada goose lives up to its name.