Some families just keep on growing.
And that’s exactly what’s happened to a family of geese who live around Sardis Park in Chilliwack this spring. The unusually large family of 19 geese have been noticed by bird watchers and park goers alike. That’s two adults, and 17 goslings.
The geese were out for a stroll along Manuel Road earlier this week, when they cautiously crossed Sheffield Way to get back to the park. Their travels crossed paths with Chilliwack photographer Carsten Arnold and his wife, who were out for the evening at the Sardis Park Eco Market.
“It was so cute,” Arnold says, and he grabbed a quick video of the family hustling across the crosswalk, and into the grass beside him.
Geese are a daily sight in the area, and regular drivers in the area know to keep a watchful eye even on busy Vedder Road, where the birds cross to a sanctuary on the other side. But what’s unusual about this family is the size.
Canada geese don’t have clutches of 17 eggs. So where did the others come from? The Progress called up Gord Gadsden, a biologist who works for the Fraser Valley Regional District in Chilliwack who studies birds.
Sure enough, he was familiar with the family, and has a few theories.
“What can happen with the geese families, is a family will inherit other geese families’ goslings,” he says. “If you look closely at these large families, and I’ve seen them over 20, you can see slight size differences in the goslings.”
He said it’s very likely that a few of the local parent geese were killed either by cars or by predators. But he adds that these goslings are very lucky to have adoptive parents. Because geese aren’t always accommodating. In fact, they will often shun goslings who come to their group.
“When a little gosling gets abandoned, it hopefully is taken in but not all adult geese are accepting,” Gadsden says. “In some situations, and it’s hard to know what’s going on in their brains, is a little one sneaks in and they don’t realize their family has grown by a bit.”
But once they’re in, they’re in, he says.
Some species of birds will naturally babysit for other adults, “but that’s not what happens with geese,” he says.
He guesses that the family is a blend of three “clutches,” which are normally about eight to 10 eggs.
“Mama goose can’t fit much more underneath her more than that,” he says. “All the nests I’ve observed have been in the realm of eight eggs, so for them to be 19 it has to be a blend of for sure three different families.”
Arnold, who happily shared his video and a photograph of the same family from a few weeks ago, said he’s noticed that most drivers are really careful about slowing down for the geese. Others may not realize the area is filled with creeks and greenspace where the geese nest and eat.