Goose Games? What The Duck? Imprinted Birds

Sigh. So, I haven't been filling my feeders because of some mice that are trying to share our humble little one bedroom apartment. We've trapped them (I think there is one free roaming mouse left) but with the single digit temperatures this morning, I just had to fill the bird feeders. I wasn't expecting much, the feeders have been empty well over a month, so I was expecting the bird activity to take a few days to resume. Oh no, within ten minutes a blue jay showed up--setting off our dear little cockatiel alarm system. Yes, screechy bird, I hear you, I am now very well aware that there is a blue jay outside.

So, imprinted birds seems to be a theme in my email inbox. My friend Amy sent this question along with a link to some photos:

Today there was a duck (female I think) hanging out by the entrance to our building. She would huddle next to the door and would let people in and out but by all appearances it looked as if she wanted in. She ended up finally flying away at sunset but was at the doorway all day. Any ideas why a duck would do this? I took some photos here.

I think this bird is imprinted on humans. People will get duck and goose chicks from game farms (or find them in the wild when they have been separated from their family group) and raise them and release them. The problem is that when the birds are young, they imprint on what they see leading them around providing them food. They look at that and process, "Okay, this creature must be what I am, so I will use it as a guide to find food, a mate, safety, etc." When people release the birds in the wild, the ducks and geese will have a "Holy Crap" moment. The flock is gone, how will they find food and safety so they seek out what they think will be food and safety--other humans. The other problem is that, people don't train ducks and geese what are predators. They don't have a good idea about foxes, coyotes, mink, raptors so they are very vulnerable to predators. I think Amy's duck was trying to get inside the building looking for food and warmth.

I don't begrudge people wanting game farm chicks (look at those cute little goslings above--how could you resist that?), if those birds are going to live out their life on that person's property--that's great. But I am not a fan of schools and families raising waterfowl for release in the wild. I just don't think those birds have all the tools they need for survival.

If you would like to watch a narrated slide show (worth it for the very thick Minnesota accent heard in the narration) about a family who raised some Canada geese from a game farm and now play "goose games" with their Lincoln Town Car, then check out this link from the Minneapolis Star Tribune Pursuit of Happiness Series.