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During the past 40 years, profound changes have occurred in the number of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) wintering in different regions of the Atlantic Flyway. To explain the declining number of wintering geese in the Chesapeake and Carolina regions and the increasing number in the mid-Atlantic region from 1984 to 1989, I tested several hypotheses concerning regional differences in production, survival, and movement. The observation of migratory geese neckbanded in northern Quebec and throughout the winter grounds, and the lack of a regional difference in the proportion of young in the harvest, indicated that regional differences in production on the breeding grounds was unlikely to explain the observed changes in mid-winter number. Average annual survival rates were highest for geese in the Chesapeake and lowest for geese in the mid-Atlantic indicating that differential survival between regions did not cause the large changes in mid-winter numbers between regions. Geese were more likely to move to, and remain in, the Chesapeake than any other region. Estimated movement patterns did not match observed changes in mid-winter counts. Consequently, the observed changes in number of wintering geese from 1984 to 1989 could not be explained by my analyses of differential production, survival, or movement. The survival and movement analyses, however, were based largely on data from migratory, northern breeding geese. In the aerial Midwinter Waterfowl Survey, migratory, northern-breeding geese cannot be distinguished from local, southern-breeding geese. The changes in mid-winter numbers may result from declining numbers of migratory, northern-breeding geese wintering in the Chesapeake and Carolinas and increasing numbers of local, southem-breeding geese remaining in the mid-Atlantic.
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Changing number of Canada geese wintering in different regions of the Atlantic Flyway