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Rare tundra goose captured in LA is now rehabbing at Huntington Beach wildlife center

A tundra bean goose that appears to be far from its Arctic home is recovering at a local bird rescue after a BB pellet broke its wing.

The bird has been spotted around Southern California since the spring and was caught last week at Magic Johnson Park in Los Angeles, where it has been observed since late summer.  Wildlife experts grew concerned when birders reported the goose appeared to limp and had a dangling wing.

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Tundra bean geese typically breed in Northern Siberia and are often found wintering in northern Asia and with other grey geese in nature reserves in England. The species has been spotted in the lower 48 states fewer than a dozen times and in California once when it was observed at the Salton Sea in 2010.

The bird was first spotted at Piute Ponds in Apple Valley in March. Then in Apollo Park in Lancaster in May.

This goose’s rarity drew interest from many birders who flocked to see it; last year a snowy owl, also very rare to see in the region, drew huge crowds when it took up residence for several weeks in a Cypress neighborhood.

Federal and state wildlife officials asked the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center for help catching the injured goose. It has been recovering at the Huntington Beach facility since it was captured on Wednesday, Nov. 22, in Magic Johnson Park.

The BB pellet remains lodged in its wing; given the bird’s hollow bones and delicate structure, surgery to remove it may not be an option, said Debbie McGuire, the center’s director.

An x-ray reveals a BB lodged in the wing bone of a tundra bean goose currently at the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach on Friday, November 24, 2023. The goose, which breeds in northern Siberia, and a rare sighting for Southern California, was captured in Magic Johnson Park in Los Angeles after appearing to have an injured wing. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)
An x-ray reveals a BB lodged in the wing bone of a tundra bean goose currently at the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

“We don’t know if it will ever be able to take up flight again because of the type of bird it is,” she said, adding that federal and state wildlife officials have pre-approved its transfer to a sanctuary in Louisiana if it’s determined the goose can no longer fly well enough to migrate.  “If it goes there, it will be with others of its kind.”

For now, center staff are doing all they can to keep the bird pain-free and fed, she said.

“The goose is doing really well,” said Jaret Davey, a bird technician and the center’s volunteer coordinator, who, with Teal Helms, another center technician, drove to Los Angeles to capture the bird. “It’s eating on its own and is in an inside enclosure. As it improves, it will go to an outdoor enclosure where it will have a large pool and other duck and goose friends.”

The recent snag of the goose at the park took a lot of peas and a lot of patience.

Davey and Helms got help from eBird, an online database of sightings used by birders, in locating the goose among the multiple water spots in the park, looking for the telltale all-black bill with an orange stripe amid the other waterfowl.

“To have this kind of goose here is extremely rare,” Davey said. “Birders were keeping a regular eye on it.”

With peas in hand – geese covet peas, Davey said – they began trying to lure the bird to them. After three hours, they got the goose close enough to take a shot of securing it with a net.

“We knew we only had one good shot,” Davey said. “When we did it, it fought like hell. For how small the bird is, it packs quite a punch. I threw the net on it and Teal got it into a safe restraint. Then we put it in a kennel.”

A vet will decide later this week if surgery should be attempted. For now, McGuire said the goose has continued to snack on peas and grasses and is “very chubby and seems comfortable.”


Source: Orange County Register

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