Park Sentries: Canada Geese

Cover photo: © Don DeBold, 2017, some rights reserved.

Learn about the Canada goose, a common visitor to California’s parks and fields.

Cover photo: © Don DeBold, 2017, Flickr Photo Album, some rights reserved.

The Canada goose has the most widely-distributed range of any goose in North America.

They are found year-round in parts of the northern United States. Birds that breed closer to the Arctic will migrate south to the United States for the winter. In some parts of California, there are areas where geese are found year-round. For more information on their range, check out this map by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Their migratory v-formations headed north in the spring and south in the fall are widely recognized as symbols of the changing seasons.

Canada geese tend to forage in moist fields and manicured lawns.

There, Canada geese graze on grasses and grains from cultivated plants. Manicured lawns are particularly attractive to Canada geese, as the short vegetation allows them an unobstructed view of the landscape to look out for potential predators.

Canada geese are also known to eat aquatic plants.

Canada geese build their nests near water.

Females select the location, and do most of the work to construct a cup-shaped nest. They lay 2 – 8 eggs, which hatch after around a month of incubation. The hatchlings are covered in yellow down. As precocial hatchlings, they are able to walk, swim, and dive as soon as they leave the nest. The young will stay with their parents for a year, traveling as a family group.

Breeding pairs are monogamous, and have low rates of “divorce” – or splitting up. They form pairs usually during their second year of life.

When birdwatching, it pays to look closely at flocks of Canada geese.

I’ve been delighted during some birding walks to find another species mixed in with flocks of Canada geese. While at Shoreline Regional Park, I was lucky enough to find some greater white-fronted geese foraging with the Canada goose flock I was watching. Greater white-fronted geese are a rarer species in the Bay Area, so it was a treat to be able to watch them.

Canada & Greater White-fronted Geese Logo
Greater white-fronted geese foraging alongside Canada geese at Shoreline Regional Park in Mountain View, Ca.

Cool facts about Canada Geese:

  • Contrary to popular belief, the term “Canadian Goose” is incorrect. The common name of this species is “Canada Goose”.
  • Canada goose populations in urban areas have been increasing since the 1950’s.

Resources to learn more:

Spot an Owl at Shoreline Regional Park

Mountain View, Ca – Right in the heart of the Silicon Valley, Shoreline Regional Park is a gem where you can see wildlife from burrowing owls to pelicans.

Species to Look Out For

burrowing owl circle

Western Burrowing Owl

About the Park

Mountain View, Ca – Regional Park

Science Spotlight: Burrowing Owls at Shoreline Park

The western burrowing owl is a small species of diurnal owl, meaning that it’s active primarily during the day. True to their name, western burrowing owls nest and reside in burrows in the ground – relying on sites that have already been excavated by burrowing mammals such as the California ground squirrel.

The burrowing owl has been experiencing steep population declines over the past 30 years due to habitat loss. Their population was estimated at 640 birds in the 1980’s, with three-quarters of the population residing in the South Bay alone. In 2017, the South Bay reported just 64 adults at 5 breeding sites.

The City of Mountain View employs a part-time specialist in charge of monitoring the burrowing owls, restoring their habitat, and ensuring park plans are in line with federal and state regulations protecting the owls. Local organizations, such as the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, are also involved in initiatives to help protect the burrowing owls.

For more information on western burrowing owls in the Bay Area, check out the Bay Area Naturalist article The Bay Area’s Fight for the Western Burrowing Owl.

Park History

The area around Mountain View and Sunnyvale was once inhabited by the Ohlone Native Americans. Spanish settlers arrived in the 1700’s, and established the first missions in the area in 1777.

The area that is now Shoreline Park was formerly a dump/junk site, a hog farm, and a sewage treatment plant. In 1968, Mountain View decided to renovate the park to make the space available to the public for enjoyment of the outdoors. The park was completed in 1983, relying on garbage from San Francisco and neighboring cities to provide fill for the area.

The park is near the Rengstorff House, a historical mansion built in the 1860’s. You can also see the Shoreline Amphitheater, a popular concert venue in the Bay Area.

Visit the Park

Please note that there is no entrance fee to enter the park. Dogs are not allowed.

We recommend taking the trail from the Shoreline Boathouse parking lot towards the kite-flying area. Be sure to scan California ground squirrel burrows for burrowing owls!

Here are some helpful resources to plan your visit: