CONWAY — Employees at a Conway Walgreens learned a lot about Canada geese after a female hatched goslings on Mother’s Day on an island in the parking lot.
Bernadette, as one Walgreens employee named her, hatched three goslings with mate Henry guarding the nest.
Spencer Hamilton, photo tech at the Salem Road store, said that in April, he noticed four geese on the parking lot; then they disappeared for a week. The store is adjacent to a medical park that has a pond.
“A week later, she nested, and she’s sitting there on a nest,” Hamilton said.
Kate Mull, beauty adviser at the store, said she and Hamilton watched one day as Bernadette looked for the perfect spot.
“She definitely hunted out that spot. It’s the absolutely one area in our parking lot that has no shade,” she said. The area has dirt/mulch, bordered by concrete.
However, the area is at the back of the parking lot where fewer cars go by because there isn’t an exit there.
Mull said she and Hamilton researched Canada geese after the mates set up a nursery in the parking lot.
“I didn’t know anything about geese when I first saw them,” Hamilton said. “I just love animals.”
Hamilton said that when he saw them settling in, “I Googled real fast, ‘What do you feed geese?’” He read that they like oats, so he went inside Walgreens and bought some for the pair.
“I read you’re not supposed to feed them bread,” he said. Hamilton made a sign and erected it near the nest: “Please Do Not Feed Us Bread! It Can Cause Harm To Our Health! I enjoy eating grass, seeds (mostly corn kernels) or oats if you wish to drop food off to us.”
“I fed them every morning at 8 and every afternoon at 4,” he said. “I kept feeding them and making life easier for them.”
Hamilton also said he called Arkansas Game and Fish, as well as the Ohio and Washington state’s Game and Fish Commissions, for advice.
“I didn’t want to get in the middle of something I didn’t know anything about,” he said.
Hamilton said a customer called the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission when the weather turned warm to ask about giving them water, and she brought a large container of water to the store for the geese.
Luke Naylor of Conway, waterfowl-program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, wasn’t surprised to hear that the geese picked the parking lot. He said Canada geese have adapted well to urban life.
“They’re pretty resourceful; we get reports most years of birds, ducks, nesting in someone’s flower plant box next to a pool,” Naylor said. “It’s crazy what these birds will do. They’re territorial.”
He was somewhat surprised that the goslings hatched on Mother’s Day.
“There’s another family of them on that pond that are older; hatched out three weeks ago. [The new parents] must have lost a nest, probably; most of them should be closer to that size [other goslings] right now,” he said. However, Naylor added, “there’s a wide range of when they nest and when they hatch out.”
Mull said that when she was looking at the birds, people would pull up in their vehicles.
“They said, ‘Oh, are these your little bird friends?’ And I got to educate them.”
“They mate for life,” Mull said. “They’ll actually die of heartbreak if the other one dies. They’re sort of like penguins.”
Hamilton said he got a call Sunday morning that the goslings had hatched, and he drove to the store to take photos of them.
“I knew from what I read that they weren’t going to be here very much longer,” he said.
By midday Monday, the goose family had made the short walk to the pond and seemed to be getting along swimmingly.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.