Last updated: 19 August 2019
The Canada goose is a common and easily recognised goose with a distinctive black head, long neck, and large white throat patch. It usually gathers in flocks. It was introduced as an ornamental bird in the 17th century, but restricted to only a few areas of the UK until the middle of the 20th century. Numbers increased markedly from this point. This was greatly helped by the deliberate introduction of birds into new habitats during the 1950s and 1960s.
It can and does cause major damage to amenity grasslands, pastures and crops through grazing and trampling. Droppings can be a health and safety risk to humans, both through ingestion but also causing slippery conditions. Ecological impact includes damage to other wildlife (such as trampling other bird nests) and destruction of waterside habitat, for example reedbeds. The birds can be aggressive and also pose an airplane collision risk in many parts of the world.
Numbers vary depending on the time of year. There is a population of resident birds and their numbers are added to in winter and summer by additional birds looking to avoid hard winter conditions elsewhere or find summer grazing. In summer 2017 over 1100 birds were counted on the lake. Nationally, the population is estimated as increasing by 8% each year, the wintering population in 2017 was around 190,000.
Management of Canada Geese has been carried out on Windermere in some form or other for nearly 20 years. In 2007 a group of science and conservation organisations and major landowners from around the lake formed the Windermere Geese Management Group. It was set up to tackle the problems resulting from the large increase in numbers. The group is coordinated by the Lake District National Park Authority and shares resources to carry out research and practical interventions to manage Canada Geese numbers on Windermere and other waterbodies in the catchment area.
Research work includes nest and egg counts, bird ringing and migration monitoring and the measurement of phosphorus loading from bird excrement in Windermere. Data gathered from the research is used to inform an annual action plan.
In response to public opposition, in 2012, the group decided not to use population culling as a management method.
Practical intervention work carried out by the group includes temporary fencing, permanent fencing, mechanical scarers, reedbed restoration and egg oiling to prevent eggs hatching. Despite all of this there are still large numbers of Canada geese causing problems.
Non-lethal control measures will continue to be used during 2019/20.
Membership of the Windermere Geese Management Group is made up of (links open in a new window):