Geese faithful mates until the end

Living in Balance
By Jenipher Appleton

The luminous yellow plumage of the American Goldfinch has begun to wane to a dusky gold. Rose-breasted grosbeaks have long since taken off to their southern climes, and no longer are we pestered by the voracious, greedy grackles at the feeders. These developments are sure signs that autumn is upon us.
During my most recent late afternoon walks with Fergus the Labrador puppy, the musical honking of the Canada geese can be heard as they land in the fields to bed down for the night. The sight of the V-shaped flock is another sign of the impending season.
The Common Canada goose (Branta Canadensis) can measure up to 45” in length. Its counterpart, the Lesser Canada, is much smaller, around 25” and has a considerably higher-pitched voice. The distinctive markings of these geese are their long black necks and panda-white cheek patches, contrasted by the light chest and grayish body.
I have often heard the misnomer ‘Canadian Goose’. Like beavers, moose, and maple syrup, the geese are Canadian, but the correct name is Canada goose. They breed in the Arctic and northern regions of Canada and winter from southern Ontario through to the southern United States.
A generation ago, it was more likely that most of the geese would migrate south. Now, with our seemingly milder winters and sumptuous grain fields, thousands are spending their winters in southern Ontario.
Wawa, Ontario, a town on the northern shore of Lake Superior is noted for its gigantic statue of a Canada goose. The story behind this statue’s existence is chronicled in a song by Stompin’ Tom Connors entitled ‘Little Wawa.’ The Canada goose is one of the few animal species known to mate for life. In Stompin’ Tom’s ballad, Little Wawa is a goose whose gander, or mate, falls victim to an Indian arrow during hunting season. Devastated, this faithful little goose leaves her flock to stay beside the body of her mate, pining away until she subsequently starves to death. That shows more dedication than most human couples. This sad tale is supposedly true and the statue at Wawa is in tribute to the faithful goose who refused to leave her mate. In our home a wooden carving of a Canada goose also bears the name ‘Little Wawa.’ Very few other animal species mate for life; Canis lupus, or the gray wolf, is among those animals that choose a single mate in their lifetime.
The Canada goose can be an overbearing presence in places like public parks. A stroll beside the Avon River in beautiful Stratford is testament to this, where goose droppings litter the riverbank so thickly, it is sometimes difficult to avoid stepping in them. Nevertheless, the unquestionable majesty of a vast V-shaped flock, etched against a clear autumn sky, continues to be symbolic of the spirit of our Great White North…eh?