Solitary goose

This year, in the skies over Leaky Creek, I have seen many solitary geese (of the Canada Goose variety).  I even had one land in the back field at night.  I remember in the past maybe seeing one every few years.  This year, I think I’ve seen 10 if not 12 solitary geese.  My heart breaks for them.  The sound panicked, uncertain, scared, and lost as they fly by.  Their honks sound like un-answered cries for help.  I wonder how many will reach their destination and how many will perish due to lack of protection, support, and guidance.  How many will be brought down by a hunter’s bullet?  How many will be killed by predators?  How many will forge successfully to their destination alone?  How many will meet up with a new flock and be successful in their journey?

The answers are unknown although it’s clear that a single goose has a lot less chance of successfully migrating.

Watching these solitary geese breaks my heart.  I want each of them to reach success and happiness.  I want them to be safe and not alone.

I know that geese mate for life but if something happens to one, will he (or she) eventually find another mate or stay single the rest of his (or her) life? If they do not mate again, will they ever be accepted into another group or spend their life by themselves?  

As you correctly noted, Canada geese (and swans) do mate for life. Mated pairs not only raise and protect their young together, but also look out for one another over the course of their lives. One mate will stay by the other’s side if injured or dying, even if the rest of the flock is moving on. They are extremely devoted to one another. 

It is certainly possible that when one goose dies, the survivor will find a new partner. However, as with people, every goose is different. Whether or not a goose decides to pursue a new mate involves a number of factors, many of which we don’t fully understand. Members of pair that have been together for many years are probably less likely to take a new mate than had the situation involved a younger pair — but it is still up to the individual bird.

Canada geese are very social creatures, so the lone goose will always have a flock to be associated with when he or she chooses to socialize again. (Sometimes geese in mourning will stay by themselves.) It is possible that the goose will become a loner, but it is impossible to generalize. Again, it depends on the specific goose’s “personality.”



There is a pond where I work, and I couldn’t help noticing this one lonely goose hanging around. He appears to be healthy, what might be wrong, if anything? 

Of course, it is very difficult to know for absolute certainty why this goose is alone. 

There are three common explanations for your observation. The first two assume that the lone goose is healthy and can fly.

The first possibility only applies in the spring during nesting season. Many people report seeing a lone goose hanging around a particular area. Typically the bird is a gander (the male) standing guard with a well-concealed mate on a nest nearby — he only appears to be alone.

The second possible explanation is that the goose you observed has lost his or her mate. Geese are known to mourn by staying by themselves for a while (see next question/answer below).

Possible explanation 3: He was injured (shot at?) shortly before arriving on the scene and his internal injuries brought him down.

Of course, it is entirely possible that this goose has just strayed from his flock for a while.

If this goose appears to be healthy (and appears to be finding food and eating), then there is nothing to worry about and no need to do anything.

If one goose of a mated pair dies, does the mate mourn? A goose on our lake died yesterday and last night and all this morning, his mate has been swimming around the lake calling out in what sounds like despair. It is a loud sad short honk, and he/she just keeps circling the lake doing this.
Those who have spent time observing geese will tell you that they are, indeed, very emotional creatures. There is little doubt that geese deeply mourn not only the loss of their mates, but also the destruction of their eggs. The behavior you observed is most certainly what one would expect of a mourning goose. It is hard to say exactly how long they mourn; certainly, longer over the loss of a mate than for the loss of eggs. Geese in mourning will often stay by themselves for a while.

I also reflect upon my similarities to the goose.  I wonder.. will I go through the rest of my life like a solitary goose?  Like the plight of the solitary goose my fate remains yet undetermined.

About Mary K. Smith

I was widowed in July 2009, when I lost my beloved husband, John, to melanoma. Cancer SUCKS. We have a young son who was just a year old when his father died. I live on a small farm in Maryland which is home to horses, cats, and a dog. I started this blog as a way for me to heal, a way to remember my husband, and eventually I'd like to share it with our son so he can see the love that his father had for him, the love that we had for each other, what a great person his father was, and how hard his father fought to live.
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