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Q&AZ: Have Geese Always Migrated To Arizona Or Have Manmade Lakes Lured Them To The Phoenix Area?

Every winter, Arizona sees an influx of visitors hoping to enjoy the weather. That includes feathered fowl like Canada geese. Through our Q&AZ reporting project, listener Nicole Kam asked if the geese have always stopped in the Valley, or did man-made lakes lure them in?

The Canada goose is distinguished across North America for its black and white head, and its V-shaped migrating formation.

The birds are supremely well-adapted to live in urban habitats, and humans help when they build artificial bodies of water.

Much like human snowbirds, geese flock to Arizona in the winter for warmth. But, also like some snowbirds, some have set up a permanent home here.

Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Arizona Tice Supplee said most of the geese you'll see in the Valley come from up north.

“The vast majority are Canadian," she said. "Now, we have some birds that have decided that Phoenix is such a cool place to live, they don’t leave. They're a bit of an urban pest.”

Supplee added that the increasing number of man-made lakes and landscaping has led to  more geese stopping in Arizona, when before they would head farther south to Mexico.

“There has definitely been an increase in the number of geese that have stopped migration around here. They take advantage not only of the lakes but, also, if they’re grazers like geese and ducks, they’ll feed on that nice Bermuda grass that's usually next to the lakes,” Supplee said.

Supplee said the permanent resident geese could be from a flock that was brought to live at the Turf Paradise racetrack lake in the 1970s.

"The lore about where they all originated goes back to our horserace track, Turf Paradise," Supplee said. "They thought it would be nifty to have geese in their infield lake. There were efforts to try and address that population even then, because the numbers were building."

The winter waterfowl population, which includes these Canada geese, have been surveyed for more than 10 years by volunteers across the Valley. The Arizona Game and Fish Department coordinates and compiles the data sent in from the volunteers for the Greater Phoenix Waterbird Area Survey.

The final tally for the 2019 January survey is 5,517 Canada geese in the Phoenix area. That's up from 3,509 surveyed a decade ago, in 2009.

Casey Kuhn reports from KJZZ’s West Valley Bureau. She comes to Phoenix from the Midwest, where she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism.Kuhn got her start in radio reporting in college at the community public radio station, WFHB. She volunteered there as a reporter and worked her way up to host the half-hour, daily news show. After graduating, she became a multimedia reporter at Bloomington's NPR/PBS station WFIU/WTIU, where she reported for and produced a weekly statewide news television show.Since moving to the Southwest, she’s discovered a passion for reporting on rural issues, agriculture and the diverse people who make up her community.Kuhn was born and raised in Cincinnati, where her parents instilled in her a love of baseball, dogs and good German beer. You’ll most likely find her around the Valley with a glass of prosecco in one hand and a graphic novel in the other.She finds the most compelling stories come from KJZZ’s listeners.