Snowbirds and Canada geese like a lot of the same things about Longboat Key: its golf courses, waterways and plethora of dining options.
Human snowbirds are a rare sight on the Key during the dog days of August, but Canada geese are flocking to the mid-Key Bay Isles and Resort at Longboat Key Club Harbourside golf course area.
“They’ve got free roam,” said David Novak, who cares for the swan family on the Resort at Longboat Key Club’s golf courses. “It’s a pretty doggone good environment. They’ve got plenty of food, plenty of space. It’s kind of like it’s their Shangri-La.”
Key Club Director of Golf Terry O’Hara said the resort’s golf courses are like a sanctuary to a variety of animals, including many birds such as swans — and, yes, Canada geese.
“Canadian geese aren’t exactly the favorite bird of a golf course, but they seem to like Longboat Key,” he said. “We haven’t had any real issues that have caused us to have to take any sort of action. It’s kind of a normal occurrence.”
O’Hara isn’t sure whether the Key’s population of geese is actually increasing or if it’s more concentrated than in the past.
“We had renovation work going on at Islandside, and while renovating, they left there and came to Harbourside,” he said. “When one golf course is completely brown, because we have to kill the grass, then they leave there, so it might seem like there are more geese.”
Novak, however, said he saw goslings earlier this year while tending to swan nests, which puzzled him because he hasn’t seen goose nests.
“They’re doing a pretty good job of protecting their young and protecting their nests, because they seem to be all over the place,” he said.
“The increase might be the goslings growing up, because by now, they would be almost as big as the adults,” said Dr. Lou Newman, a retired veterinarian and avid bird photographer. “It’s not the right time of year to be seeing migratory geese around here. The geese that we’re seeing are year-round.”
Whether the goose population is larger or more concentrated, many residents have taken notice, although none could offer estimates of the number of geese or flocks.
“They seem to be enjoying our trees that have these little red berries,” John Wild said.
The geese also seem to enjoy the Key’s slow pace, sometimes stopping traffic as groups of more than a dozen cross Bay Isles Road near Publix.
“They’re so cute when they go across the road when they’re working on the course because (the construction work) scares them away,” said Linda Weber, who normally plays golf nearly every day at Harbourside, which is currently closed. “Everyone stops for them as they’re crossing the road.”
Weber doesn’t consider the geese a nuisance — although she admits their droppings are.
Novak also doesn’t think they’re a nuisance, although he says the geese can be noisy early in the morning. Left unchecked, however, the population can grow to the point that geese become controversial in surrounding communities.
“The parallel here on the island is in the Village with the peacocks,” Novak said.
Newman said he was surprised by the growth of the population because swans are typically more aggressive and larger than geese. Typically, male swans will chase away ganders if they intrude on their territories. Swans can also feed at deeper levels in the water, giving them a competitive edge over geese — although that’s probably not an issue on the Key, because geese can feed on golf course grass.
Geese also don’t have most of their normal predators on the Key, such as foxes, coyotes, eagles and hawks.
According to Novak, the most humane approach communities typically take to control the goose population is removing eggs from nests.
Wild, however, joked about another solution:
“Turkey season is coming.”