For more information on species & ecosystem science:

Wildlife Science

Fish Science

Habitat Science


Lead Scientists: Matthew Wilson, Don Kraege

Ecoregions: Columbia Plateau

Ecological Systems: Columbia Plateau Low Sagebrush Steppe, North American Arid West Emergent Marsh

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Click on map to enlarge

Map of migration routes of Small Canada Geese captured in 2012.

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Click on photo to enlarge

Marc Petersen and Mikal Moore taking measurements

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Click on photo to enlarge

Stratford Lake rocket net captures

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Click on photo to enlarge

Stratford Lake rocket net captures


Waterfowl Ecology

Delineating the breeding grounds of small Canada geese wintering in the Columbia Basin

Project Description

Management of Tavernerís cackling geese ("Tavernerís") and lesser Canada Geese ("Lessers") is confounded by difficulties delineating these subspecies on the breeding grounds due to similar morphological characteristics and undefined breeding ranges. The Pacific Flyway has been unable to finalize a management plan for Lessers and Tavernerís due to the inability to define and monitor these populations. Of particular concern, past marking projects of Lessers staging in interior Alaska and wintering in eastern Washington and Oregon found annual survival rates among the lowest and recovery rates among the highest for comparable populations of marked geese (Eichholz and Sedinger 2007). Delineation of the nesting grounds of these two goose populations, coupled with ongoing genetics research, is critical to the responsible management of Arctic-nesting small Canada geese.

Project Objectives

  1. Utilize satellite platform terminal transmitters (PTTs) to augment efforts to delineate the range of Taverner’s and Lessers.
  2. Provide DNA samples to delineate breeding grounds based on genetic differentiation. 
  3. Contribute to harvest information knowledge of Taverner’s and Lessers in the Columbia Basin by conducting annual fall and spring banding efforts. 
  4. Collect morphological data on captured geese which, in association with genetics information, will enhance morphometric discrimination of Taverner’s and Lessers in the field. 

Key Findings 

  • Since spring 2010, we have implanted 21 PTTs in adult female small Canada geese, including 12 spring and 9 fall deployments. We tracked the study subjects to their breeding grounds in northwestern Alaska for the summer (see breeding area map). The birds used breeding and molting sites near Kotzebue Sound, Bering Land Bridge, and the Lisburne Peninsula. They returned to eastern Washington in late October and early November. Most of the geese migrated down the British Columbia coastline, with the exception of one bird which migrated inland through central B.C. Contrary to expectations, none of the study subjects transmitted from known small Canada goose staging areas near Fairbanks, AK. As of September 2013, none of transmitters are active.  The last location was received in July 2013.
  • Preliminary DNA analysis from the USGS Alaska Science Center indicates 5 of the 7 study subjects were “small-bodied haplotypes”, or Taverner’s. The other 2 “large-bodied haplotypes” were Lessers.
  • To date, we have received 92 reports of harvested geese from our banded sample. Five banded geese were recovered during the Alaska spring subsistence harvest, including one carrying a PTT.

What's New

  • We are currently analyzing band recovery data to determine the location of our next capture site.  We intend to deploy more PTTS in the spring of 2014.
  • We deployed 4 PTTs on small Canada geese wintering in southwestern Washington in March 2012, the first expansion of the study area beyond the Columbia Basin. The birds were captured at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, a cooperative effort between the USFWS and WDFW staff and volunteers.
  • We captured 230 small Canada geese using rocket nets in the Stratford, WA area in October 2011. This brings our banded sample of migratory small Canada geese to 609 geese since 2008.
  • We implanted 6 adult female Taverner’s and Lessers in October 2011 with Telonics brand PTTs.
  • We were recently awarded a $33,000 grant from the Arctic Goose Joint Venture and a $15,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service toward the purchase of additional transmitters, data downloads, and veterinarian costs.
  • See the latest locations for goose satellite transmitters
  • See archive of Monthly Location Maps


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