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Habitat Management for Migrating and Wintering
Canada Geese: A Moist-Soil Alternative

Importance of Moist-Soil Foods
in the Diet


Food habits based on gizzards collected during October-December, 1946-52, indicated that native foods accounted for 76% of the diet of Canada geese, whereas row crops accounted for only 9% (Korschgen 1955). Seven of the top 10 foods (by volume and occurrence) consumed by geese were native, moist-soil foods: knotweed (Polygonum pennsylvanicum), nodding smartweed (P. lapathifolium), blunt spikerush, barnyard grass, acorns (Quercus spp.), nodding foxtail (Setaria faberii), and chufa. A similar study during the early 1980's (Eggeman et al. 1989) indicated that the importance of native, moist-soil foods for Canada geese was still high. Most of the same foods were among the 10 most frequently encountered foods, with knotweed and barnyard grass seeds ranking volumetrically among the 5 most important. In both studies, use of these foods was highest during periods of flooding and mild weather. In contrast, Helm (1951) observed use of moist-soil foods by Canada geese only when weather conditions were severe or when corn fields were snow-covered.

At Mingo NWR, vegetative parts rather than seeds seem to be important in goose diets. Canada geese fed heavily on blunt spikerush that germinated in moist-soil units after disking and completely denuded large areas of dense growth (Rundle 1980). McKenzie (1987) found that geese consumed primarily vegetative parts: roots of buttonweed, leaves, stems and rhizomes of smartweed (P. hydrapiperiodes) and Lippia lanceolata, and plant parts of Eleocharis smallii, blunt spikerush, and Fimbristylis spp. Seeds of wild millet (Echinochloa crusgalli) and blunt spikerush also were a significant portion of the diet.


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