With the University mostly emptied of people, those remaining say its grounds are being filled by an equally opportunistic species — Canada geese.
Their calls echo from rooftops, but ornithologist Dan Mennill says their abundance may be an illusion.
“I doubt that there are more geese than usual on campus,” he says. “Instead, I expect that there’s the same number of geese, but they’re more visible because there are fewer people around and because the geese are spending more time on the ground rather than on the roofs of our buildings.”
A biology professor, Dr. Mennill is an expert in avian vocalizations. He notes that Canada geese produce 13 different types of calls, many of them subtle variations on the typical “honk” associated with the species. They serve different functions, from initiating flight or leading a flock to defending territories.
“When someone gets too close, a goose will hiss and thrust their neck forward — it is usually enough to scare a human away!” he says. “At this time of year, we should see more and more geese in breeding pairs. It is safe to watch them. Just give them a little distance as they forage on the grass on campus.”
He directs readers interested in learning more about Canada geese to Birds of the World, accessible through the Leddy Library with a UWin login.
“We should consider ourselves lucky, that we have an opportunity to observe wildlife sharing campus with us!” says Mennill.