To observe Canada geese under semicaptive conditions I like to visit the pond of T. Donald Carter near Boonton, N.J. Carter, who is Assistant Curator of Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History, raises wild ducks and geese as a hobby. He built a two-and-a-half-acre pond, erected a high wire fence around it and stocked it with many species of wild ducks.
Then he added a pair of pinioned Canada geese. They built a nest on a small island in the pond and defended their island domain fiercely. One day Don rowed out to the island to see how they were getting along, and they drove him off. Since that time Don has maintained a small group of Canadas on the pond, permitting the young to grow up and fly as they will. Usually they stay around the neighborhood, making forays around suburban New Jersey but always returning to the pond. Sometimes they go away for long periods. One pair flew away but came back just a year later.
One day I asked Don if he knew the origin of the phrase "silly goose." He bristled with indignation and said, "I don't know where it comes from, but it's not true." He told how one time he and some helpers brought out a roll of wire and used it to herd his old pair of geese into a pen. A year later he wanted to put them into the pen again so he brought out the roll of wire. As soon as the geese saw it they took off for the far end of the pond, and his attempts to corral them with the wire were futile.
"I'm sure they remembered," he said, "and when a bird does a thing like that you can't call it silly."
Don's admiration of the Canada goose is shared by many. Francis H. Kortright, in his book The Ducks, Geese and Swans of North America, wrote that the characteristics of the Canada goose are "sagacity, wariness, strength and fidelity," and he indicated that in these respects the Canada goose could serve as a model for man. In any event, the Canada goose is a noble bird.