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Nature & You: 'Sky carp?' Hint: It's not a fish

A pair of Canada geese and their goslings cross the street last week in Yukon. [Photo by Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman]
A pair of Canada geese and their goslings cross the street last week in Yukon. [Photo by Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman]

As you're driving across town, likely as not you're going to be shocked to see Canada geese standing there at the roadside. 

What gives? Aren't these waterfowl supposed to be migratory? Why haven't they flown north? At the very least, why are they hanging out in the most built-up and manicured portions of Oklahoma's environments? 

You'd think they'd much prefer to live in the fields and farms — rather than the more heavily urbanized parts of our state.

In addition to this, we're not just talking about a few oddball birds that we see only occasionally; the urban-dwelling Canada geese are here in relative abundance. They are so common, in fact, that some people have begun to almost derisively refer to them as "Sky Carp." Not that I have been convinced that these birds are unwelcome, unwanted and just shouldn't be here; I tend to view these large, ubiquitous creatures as a very nice complement to the places where we choose to live.

Let's examine this perplexing question much further.

Ma Nature is a cruel taskmaster. Her reward for innovation and intelligence is an extended length of life. The opposite is true for those individual creatures that attempt to go about their daily business while wearing a dunce hat. 

The Canada geese that live in town are the smart ones. They have figured out that gosling-eating coyotes are seldom encountered where people choose to live. Living in town, of course, puts the geese in proximity to lots of people, but very rarely do the geese have anything to fear from urban-dwelling humans.

Every year, almost without fail, these geese end up having to cross busy city streets with a following brood of flightless goslings. You'd suppose that that would be a situation fraught with tragedy, but I've seen multiple instances where the goose family brings the traffic to a complete halt, allowing safe passage for the baby geese.    

It gives me a "warm, fuzzy" feeling to see that when it happens. It makes me darn proud to be a member of the human community. Goodness and kindness prevail!

Neil Garrison

Neil Garrison is an outdoor nature enthusiast. He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University/Stillwater; he earned a B.S. degree in Wildlife Ecology. Prior to his 2009 retirement, he was the Naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center for 30... Read more ›