Status and Population Affiliation of Canada Geese Wintering in North and South Carolina

Numbers of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) wintering in North and South Carolina have continued to decline since the mid-1960s. Observations (N = 2,027) from 2,563 neckbanded geese, marked during fall and winter 1983-85, indicate that birds from eastern North Carolina are distinct in migration pattern from birds wintering in South Carolina and probably the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Most sightings (85%) of eastern North Carolina birds, reported from outside the state, were from Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia. Geese in these areas are subject to harvest and may represent a component of the population that is weakly philopatric to North Carolina as a wintering site. Within North Carolina, harvest rate indices for the last decade have increased as the population declined. We suggest that geese in South Carolina are affiliated with both the Mid-Atlantic population in the Atlantic flyway and the Tennessee Valley population in the Mississippi flyway, migrating along 2 routes through at least 9 states and a province. Although the hunting season is closed on Canada geese in South Carolina, movement patterns of these birds indicate a high probability of harvest outside the state.

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