Keep Geese Off the Grass: Behead Some Decoys

Our new house is on a lake, and it is turning out to be a bird watching paradise. We live on the plains in Colorado, so the water is a wildlife magnet. I see more species of birds while eating breakfast than I used to see on an hour-long prairie walk. Whenever I pass a window, I look out just in case there’s something new to see. That’s how the decapitated decoys caught my eye.

At first, I thought the pair of Canada geese that have been feeding in our yard daily were taking a nap. I could see their big brown bodies laying in the grass. What puzzled me was that they didn’t have their heads tucked under their wings. They were on the ground too, as if the geese had stretched their necks out and were using the grass as a pillow. But as I got closer I saw this wasn’t right because there was no neck between their heads and bodies.

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WT…? oh. It’s plastic.

They weren’t geese at all. They were plastic decoys. Our backyard is a point of land that we share with our neighbors and their kids love to run barefoot through the grass. Naturally, the neighbors would like to keep the geese (and more specifically, their poop) out of the yard. So they bought these decoys as deterrents, then had the kids put them out.

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Here are five of the “geese” in situ. You can see that the kids made an effort to cover the whole yard.

The kids scattered the decoys, dropping the heads next to the bodies instead of attaching them. I thought this was amusing because it seemed to me that the geese, who aren’t at all afraid of our dog, were not likely to be fooled. Besides, most of the year, these geese are gregarious, gathering together in huge flocks. I expected the geese to be drawn to other geese. Safety in numbers! Then I watched our pair the first time they encountered the decoys.

Both geese stood on our side of the point and honked anxiously to one another. They eyed the bodies lying in the grass and stretched their necks to get a better view without getting any closer. You could practically hear them talking.

Him: What the hell is that?
Her: Looks like that flock we saw earlier.
Him: Maybe, but what is wrong with them?
Her: *pause while she gives the prone geese a good look* I’ve never seen anyone sleep like that.
Him: I don’t think they’re sleeping.
Her: Of course they’re sleeping. They aren’t moving.
Him: They aren’t sleeping. Can’t you see? Their heads and bodies aren’t connected!
Her: What? There’s a serial killer here? You told me this was a good neighborhood!
Him: It is a good neighborhood. Look at all the grass and water! But we better not go over there. Just in case.
*both head nonchalantly in the other direction while keeping one eye on the bodies*

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Our bewildered pair of geese, looking carefully at everything. Sketch by Kit Dunsmore

They stayed on our side of the point, nibbling grass and keeping a sharp eye on the decapitated decoys in case they turned out to be zombies. While they weren’t driven away completely, they definitely stayed out of our neighbor’s part of the yard. I am astonished that this worked. I read up on Canada geese¬†and realized that this is the one time of year when decoys might drive geese away. It’s spring. The geese are pairing off to nest and are very territorial. Of course, thanks to some lazy children, it may just be that they think a mad serial killer lives at our neighbor’s house, in which case the decoys could work year round.

Personally, I hope they keep coming around despite the bodies. They are fun to draw.