December 30, 2021
When we were coming home after Christmas, we stopped at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in Tulsa. I admit one of the reasons we eat there is because it is located next to a large outdoors supply chain where I shop for fishing supplies. The supply store has a fishing pond next to it which allows customers to test different rod and reel or fly-fishing setups. As we drove out of the restaurant’s parking lot it took us by the pond and I stopped as a mom and her young son scrambled across the road on their way toward an afternoon of fishing. As usual, there were several mallard ducks wintering on the pond, along with a few white and black geese. I initially dismissed them as Canada, but the more I looked I realized they were a new species of goose I did not have on my bird identification list.
When I looked online, I found the Chinese goose (Anser cygnoides domesticus) is a breed of domestic goose descended from the wild swan goose which originated in China. Chinese geese are much larger in size than the wild goose, with males weighing between 11 to 22 pounds (5-10 kg) and females between 8 to 22 pounds (4-9 kg). They often have a strongly developed basal knob on the upper side of the bill, with the knob more prominent on males than females. It takes several months for the knob to become pronounced enough but it can be used for determining sex by the time the juveniles are 6 to 8 weeks. The Chinese goose are a close cousin of the African goose, a heavier breed also descended from the swan goose. The Chinese goose have two varieties: brown, like the wild swan goose, and white. While many domestic Chinese geese have a similar body type to other breeds, the breed standard as defined in the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection call for “a slimmer, taller fowl.”
The Chinese goose is said to be the most beautiful and graceful member of the goose family. They have long and graceful necks and are sometimes referred to as ‘Swan Goose’. The Chinese goose was brought to the US early, and both varieties of the goose were well established in colonial times. The breed was admitted into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1874, and into the British Waterfowl Standards in 1954. White Chinese goose have orange-colored shanks, beaks, and knobs. The brown variety also has orange-colored shanks but it’s beaks and knobs are black or very dark green. Both varieties have blue eyes. The Chinese goose are not only lovely to look at but are easier to raise than many other goose breeds due to their exceptional foraging ability. It is because of their great foraging that they have been used as a weeder goose in strawberry, tobacco, and other crops.
Thoughts: While the Chinese goose may be a domesticated bird, the ones at the pond had obviously flown the coop (pun intended). As I watched a pair on the shore nearby, I realized they were in process of building a nest. Chinese geese are among the better laying breeds of goose and a female can lay 50–60 eggs over the course of the breeding season (February to June), although there are reports of Chinese geese laying up to 100 eggs during that time. The mated pair I saw seemed to have been fooled by the warm weather into thinking spring had arrived and were preparing their nest in late December. Breeding in the wild can be a tricky event. If the chicks come too early, they will die in the shell from the cold or not find enough food after they hatch. If they come too late, they risk not being mature enough to fly and will be left by the flock. Either way, there are dire consequences when you misjudge what should be the appropriate action. The same is true for humans. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.