Molting-season ritual: Canada geese in Kentucky lose their feathers, gain leg bands

Special to the Herald-Leader,By MeJuly 2, 2014 

In early summer, when geese enter their no-fly molt, Rocky Pritchert gathers volunteers and employees of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources for two weeks of bird-banding throughout the state.

Pritchert, as migratory bird program coordinator, oversees the gender identification and banding of about 1,300 Canada geese.

This is the time of year when geese can't fly away because they're molting, or growing new feathers. Unlike other birds, which grow only some new feathers at a time and thus can continue to fly, geese grow theirs all at once and can't fly during molting.

During banding, a metal band is attached to one leg of each goose. Every band contains a unique number that identifies the geographic coordinates of its place of banding. Hunters and birders report the band number found on any downed goose to the U.S. Geological Survey Bird Banding Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

Banding the geese "helps biologists track population dynamics," said Derek Beard, regional coordinator of wildlife for the Bluegrass region of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. "They want to know: Is the population stable, or is it increasing or declining because geese are hunted? And we want to make sure geese aren't declining in Kentucky."

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