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Goose Ethogram

The objective of this Ethogram is to observe a Canadian goose (Branta Canadensis) behavior in its natural habitat and come up with a detailed and conclusive report about its behavior. The Canada goose is a familiar sight all year in Ontario’s water side parks. It belong to animal kingdom scientifically known as animalia, the phylum is vertebrates, class of birds, order of ducks or geese, family of swans or geese and finally to a species of Canada goose. Individuals vary in size geographically, with the smallest individuals in the north, with the average length of 64 to 117 cm. The Canadian goose has a black head and a neck marked with a broad white chin strap extending from ear to ear. It has white patches on the face and a brownish-grey body. Finally, it has rain large dark wings and a black tail with a u-shaped white band on the rump.

            The Canada goose is a familiar sight all year in Ontario’s water-side parks. Many of these geese spend the whole year in the area while others migrate to wintering grounds further to south. They fly everyday between water and feeding grounds. They stay in flocks which most likely are family groups consisting of parents and goslings. They interact with each other both within and especially between groups. Most of the interactions fall either into agonistic behaviors, that is, behaviors directed toward other animals whose purpose is to gain something from the opponent, or intra-group social behaviors which refer to within group behaviors that are associated with group maintenance.

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            The natural habitat of this animal species is on the lower yellow shore river, island grass lands and meadows along the river and open waters. They are generally herbivores though they sometimes feed on fish and insects. So their diet ranges from grass, fish and insects to grains such as wheat and corn.

The observation was based on the condition that the animal was awake and active at the time of the visit and observation so that maximum, reliable and accurate data could be collected and recorded about the behavior of the animal. The other condition was that there was need for minimal interruptions either from the people around for instance the tourists who frequent the area so that the animal does not get scared since if its not calm at the time of observation, it is difficult to come up with any information regarding the goose since it is known to defend itself from human beings.

            The observation was carried out on may 13th 2011 on a Saturday morning on Toronto island, which is a common destination for tourists from allover the globe due to its beautiful sceneries and a variety of animals, some in the forest and others in the zoos. The Toronto islands are a very short ferry-ride away from downtown and are the largest urban-car-free community in North America. The Toronto islands extend some distance out into Lake Ontario. The island is intersected by two rivers and numerous tributaries, the Humber River in the west end and the Don River east of downtown at the opposite ends of the Toronto harbor.

            The most prominent features in the area of observation, the Toronto islands, include the Toronto harbor which is a naturally created harbor by sediment build-up from lake currents, many creeks and rivers cutting from north toward Lake Ontario. The area also has got escarpments that mark the lake’s boundary known as the Iroquois shoreline which is most prominent from the Victoria Park Avenue to the mouth of highland creek. The area is not so hilly but it has increased elevation steadily away from the lake. The weather at the time of observation was humid with fairy low temperatures. There was a little bit of snow and fog. The vegetation that mostly covers the area include grass vegetation, maple and oak trees which are evergreen. Also at the time of observation, the other animals that were present around included the bird species such as pigeon, red river hog, fish, snakes, lizards and monkeys. There was also presence of other tourists who had visited the area and the guards.

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Behavior Observed

From the time spent observing the Canadian goose, a number of interesting behavior were observed. These included; agonistic behavior, social behavior, grooming, feeding habit, sleeping, locomotion, and mating. The first behavior of observation was agonistic behavior. This was observed severally during feeding whereby the geese were given a piece of bread and they started chasing after each other to take away the piece of bread from the opponent. This happened for about 5 minutes when finally one goose managed to win over the other opponents and ate the piece of bread. This agonistic behavior was repeated any time the geese were given something to eat. It was also directed towards other animals that were around like the pigeons which could really scramble for the piece of bread that was given. Since the goose is relatively bigger than the pigeons, it could finally win and eat the bread.

            Also during the observation, certain social behaviors were brought out in the geese. One could observe them moving in flocks, which primarily consisted of two parents and the goslings. After a shot while they could be seen fighting one another which lasted less than 2 minutes. The goose that had goslings was observed to be violent especially when one approached it. It seemed violent and aggressive. It defended itself by first standing erect, spread its wings and produced a hissing sound ready to attack. This happened more often when one tried to approach it. It was also observed to be hostile to unfamiliar geese which did not belong to the flock. Any time these geese could approach the flock, they would start chasing after them.

            The other interesting behavior that was observed was in its locomotive behavior. It walked on land with its webbed toes and stepped with exaggeratedly lifted feet. When in water, it was seen wading while feeding on aquatic animals such as fish. It went into water for about five times, each time after a short stay on land. It also flapped its wings three times into the time of observation and after each flapping it could fly and perch on a tree branch.

            The feeding behavior of the geese was also observed. This took about 70% of the observation time since they kept on feeding on anything that could come across, including the crawling insects. They fed on grass that was dominant in the area, grains, insects and fish. They fed on grass by grasping a blade of grass with the bill, and then tore it with a jerk of the head. They fed on grains and insects by picking them and when feeding on fish and other aquatic animals, they waded in water until they got hold of their prey.

            During the observation, their reproductive method was revealed. Every mature goose had a mate and they could be seen walking together. During the period of observation, they mated two times but it was challenging for the male goose since it had to chase after the female goose until it got hold of it. There was also another goose that was incubating its eggs in a nest and if an egg rolled out of the nest, it could be seen stretching its neck until the egg was in its proper position. This was interesting. As the weather changed and it started getting hot, the geese became inactive and some went to sleep and therefore no further observations could be made.

From the above behaviors observed, one can conclude that geese are close to chicken species, which is a domestic bird. This is because in the feeding habits observed in the geese such as feeding on grass, grains and insects are also observable in chicken species. The flapping of wings, mating behavior and mating behavior is the same apart from locomotion and wading in water. Also during the observation, certain behaviors were seen more often than others. For example, the geese could feed for almost 70% of the observation time, it could move more often. On the other hand, certain behavior was rare like flapping of wings and mating. The humid weather and the time of the day the observation was carried out allowed for maximum observable behavior. It was carried in the morning hours when the geese were most active. This also allowed one to observe and interpret behavior without any difficulty because the environment was also calm. The method used during observation was focal animal sampling but also other methods such as scan sampling can be used in subsequent experiments and one can also carry out further research about how the observed behavior help the animal to survive in its adaptive environment