An Honest Review of Canada Geese

If you’ve spent any time on campus, you’re probably familiar with Canadian geese, or Canada geese, if you’re feeling pedantic (“Canada” is used attributively in various animal and plant names).

If you’ve spent any time on campus, you’re probably familiar with Canadian geese, or Canada geese, if you’re feeling pedantic (“Canada” is used attributively in various animal and plant names). They fly overhead in a spectacular V formation, congregate in our fields and on our track, and even defecate on us. Similar to other aspects of our lives, Canada geese tend to fade into the background. Occasionally, though, they manage to do just enough to annoy us—especially when they sing songs that sound eerily similar to a broken car horn. My point is that they’re not the easiest to get along with. You may wonder, “Why Canada geese? They’re kind of irrelevant.” To some extent, they are. However, they are an important part of our campus ecosystem and Lawrenceville would certainly not be the same without them. So, I think these geese deserve some credit.

Canada geese are particularly interesting in one aspect: By investigating their behavior, we can see clear parallels between their effect on the world as a “collective” and ours as mankind. The number of collective nouns used to describe Canada geese is endless—a testament to their ability to congregate in a variety of ways. A group of geese is a gaggle; in flight, they’re a skein, a team, or a wedge; when flying close together, they’re called a plump. I rarely view Canada geese as individuals; I observe them as a wedge or a gaggle or a plump. That’s probably how they view us, too—a collective nuisance, something to be attacked. In 2009, a plump flew a suicide mission into US Airways Flight 1549, forcing a crash landing in the Hudson River. In 2014, a Canadian bicycle commuter spent a week in the hospital after a Canada goose attack. One Ottawa woman ended up with a concussion and fractured cheekbone after a similar ambush. Luckily, geese have never given me a concussion, but they sure have honked at me a lot.

Humans are also more powerful as a “collective,” just like these animals are, as evidenced by our ability to both destroy and resurrect the population of Canada geese. A century ago, they were believed to be extinct and almost joined the passenger pigeon in the hunted-to-extinction club. Canada geese were often subjected to “live decoys,” a hunting technique that used captured geese to attract flocks of wild ones to be shot. After the government imposed hunting restrictions, the population of Canada geese rebounded, and today, they inhabit our artificial golf course lakes and manicured lawns. Clearly, mankind is omnipotent (at least to a Canada goose).

While we might not want to admit it, human behavior closely resembles that of Canada geese, and vice versa. And maybe, the geese are not so bad after all. They do inspire a sort of awe I don’t feel when watching a loft of pigeons, and they make me feel like I’m in “proper” nature. Canada geese are also known for inspiring the name of a high-end clothing brand. The company Metro Sportswear originally named their outerwear label “Snow Goose” but soon changed it to “Canada Goose” to represent the ideals of the Canadian wilderness. I know for a fact they weren’t thinking about changing their name to “Domestic Pigeon.”

I’ll give Canada geese of the world 5/10 stars, but personally, I believe Lawrenceville geese are just “built different.” There’s something viscerally beautiful about watching geese fly overhead on the walk between buildings, and their calls elicit a sense of indescribable nostalgia. They add an ineffable quality to our campus, so I think they deserve 7/10 stars.

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