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Tuesday, February 7 • 11:00am - 11:20am
Technical Session. Wintering Ecology of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) in the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Area

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AUTHORS: Kendra Slown, Southern Illinois University Carbondale; Dr. Michael Eichholz, Southern Illinois University Carbondale; Heath Hagy, Illinois Natural History Survey

ABSTRACT: There is evidence that the wintering distributions of migratory subarctic-breeding Canada geese (Branta canadensis) have been shifting northward for decades. One such population of subarctic-breeding Canada geese is the Mississippi Valley Population (MVP) of the Mississippi Flyway. MVP geese historically wintered in Arkansas and Mississippi where winter food was relatively plentiful and the climate was mild. Terminal wintering areas of MVP geese moved to Southern Illinois and Western Kentucky and Tennessee as agricultural waste grain became available in winter during the early and mid 20th century. More recently, MVP geese have been wintering in the greater Chicago metropolitan area (GCMA) in Northeastern Illinois. This urban area may be the terminal wintering latitude for many migrating subarctic-breeding geese during mild winters.
This shift in wintering distribution has been attributed to changes in agricultural practices, global warming, northern refuges, and the decoy effect of temperate-breeding geese wintering in northern regions. An alternative hypothesis is high food availability during fall combined with safe, relatively disturbance free wintering locations has allowed geese to modify their wintering strategy from actively feeding in wintering locations that provided adequate food sources to maintain body condition throughout winter, to a strategy where they acquire large reserves prior to winter then minimize feeding activity and thus energy expenditure during winter and using the endogenous reserves previously acquired.
To test this hypothesis we compared body condition and behavior between geese wintering in the GCMA during 2014-2016 with body condition and behavior of geese wintering in Southern Illinois during 1984-1989, as reported by Dr. Robert Gates. We will present preliminary data.

Tuesday February 7, 2017 11:00am - 11:20am CST
Grand Ballroom D