I just passed the pond where the geese in this question are, and it turns out that while some of the geese are sleeping ontop of the ice, there is a section right there, about 20ft by 80 that is open and some are swimming around in it.

For this particular pond it seems unlikely that there are hot springs that would keep just that part from freezing, so could the geese be doing something to keep the water open in just that part?

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    My guess is that they are paddling and keeping a feeding area open.
    – ab2
    Dec 6, 2016 at 1:49
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    It could equally well be that there has to be some area that closes last, and that's where you'll find the geese. Dec 6, 2016 at 12:07
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    there also could be something below the surface that keeps the pond water open- decaying vegetable or animal matter emitting warmer gas/fluids I first thought of marine mammals like muskrats, or beavers, and they may be present also.
    – michael
    Dec 7, 2016 at 3:58

3 Answers 3


Would a Canada Goose deliberately try to keep a section of water from freezing?

As with all animals, yes if there is an advantage to it in doing so.

I suppose the real question is why, right?

Well there must be something under the ice they want and therefore they keep coming back to that location and break the ice up.

What are they after?

Well the only thing they could possibly want is food right?!

Why there?

It seems to me unlikely that there is anything special in that particular spot. It's likely just the last space to freeze where there was something easy to access to eat (weed, etc.). So the geece we're likely slowly concentrated in that area. Everytime they return, somewhere else has frozen stopping them from accessing their food. So slowly they concentrated in one area, not though choice but simply though chance, the right numbers and depth of water in the right place. This concetration then means they continually break the ice and prevent it from freezing over, thus allowing them to continue to feed.

So, I'd say the geese are not making a concious decison here (lets not anthropomorphize them here). It's simply that this was the only spot where they ended up by concentrated enough that their actions kept the water open. They return because there's food there and their returning keeps it open.

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    I vaguely remember something about waterfowl using their feet to bring the warmer water towards the top to keep it open, but I can't find it. Dec 7, 2016 at 4:15
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    Possibly, I mean the point is, they distrub the water, this breaks thin ice and prevents new ice formation (while they are there). So they do prevent the ice from forming but it's not really delibrate (as I see it). It's just they want to get to their food.
    – user2766
    Dec 7, 2016 at 9:00

I recently witnessed something I’ve never seen before, so I asked the same question, and my search brought me here. I live in Minnesota, and we have a medium size pond at the back of our property that provides a home to geese and ducks in the spring and summer. We just got hit by a freak blizzard, and 30-degree temps, which started causing the pond to re-freeze.

From observing the 20 plus Canadian geese, and several ducks, it clearly appears there is some sort of “team effort” to create open water channels in the thin ice to prevent freezeover. The geese and ducks continue to travel the same path to keep the channels they create open. This is most likely to keep open access to food, but it is being done with purpose. Very entertaining, and remarkable to see!

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I tried to research your question, but could find no information - credible or otherwise - which would suggest a deliberate behavior. So, my answer is just a guess.

First off, Canada geese feed by dipping their head under water to feed on vegetation. As others said, this action can create enough surface movement as to prevent the water from freezing. But my observations of local Canada geese say otherwise: we're experiencing temps in the single-digits over the last several weeks, and the geese are happily playing (?) on the ice of a normally slow-moving river. So wherever they're getting their food from is anyone's guess - but it's definitely not from underneath the water.

If you're seeing the geese in cold weather, then you're seeing the urban-adaptive nonmigrating Canada geese, and, that means, they've found ways to adapt by eating and nesting in ways that are different than their migratory brethren.

So, to answer your question, I would say "they could - but only for more warmer cold climates, and not at all for very cold climates". To suggest "they would" suggests an instinctive action on their part, and I haven't seen any information to support this.

You mentioned it is a local park pond. If the pond is artificially fed via a pipe below, that could be the reason that the water moves above and does not freeze over. It could also be that the pond feeds the pipe for local use. In this case, artificially moving the water using bubble machines could be in use (like that used on the sides of boats that are moored in fresh water to prevent freezing along side it).

One last thought on why there would be a hole in the ice (which I realize is not what you asked) is, maybe there is runoff from local streets? This would add salt to the water, if your area does salting in the winter. This could create a salinity in the water that is both agreeable to the Canada goose, as well as make that part of the water less able to freeze. When that saline water is diluted as it mixes with the fresher water away from that entry point, that water can freeze.

Living with Wildlife - Canada Geese

Somewhat unrelated to your question, I found that the name of the bird is actually "Canada goose" (branta canadensis), and use of "Canadian goose" suggests its citizenship! LOL The link here gives examples and counter examples of other species' names, and shows why language (especially English), in my opinion, is a stupid form of communication...

Canada (or Canadian?) geese

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