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story.lead_photo.caption Westside Eagle Observer/MIKE ECKELS The flock gathers around its favorite tree at Crystal Lake Park near Decatur July 5 for a little cracked corn lunch. By this time the goslings are estimated to be around two months old.

DECATUR -- Since its completion in the early 1950s, Crystal Lake near Decatur has become a sanctuary for birds of every size, shape and color from the majestic bald eagle to cardinals, bluebirds and geese. For the past five years, the Canada goose was the predominant species at the lake. That all changed with the introduction of a different species to the Decatur area.

Three years ago, Egyptian geese landed on the banks of Crystal Lake looking for a new place to nest. They joined dozens of pairs of Canada geese and one lone Saddleback Pomeranian goose. Soon the Egyptians took over as the dominant species at Crystal Lake, chasing off all others, including the Canada geese.

The Egyptian goose originated in the Nile and sub-Sahara regions of Africa and can live up to 27 years. These birds are a protected species under the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds. Although not formally introduced to the United States as a new species, the Egyptians, which were highly collected birds, most likely escaped captivity and worked their way from the east coast inland into the central U.S.

In January, a pair of Egyptian geese took up residency at Crystal Lake Park, chasing all other geese -- including other Egyptians -- to the field on the southwest side of the airport and to Compton Park on the southeast side of the lake.

By mid-March, six goslings popped up out of the tall grass near the overflow pond. It seems the pair had become a family of eight.

For the next two months, visitors watched in wonder as the goslings grew at a phenomenal rate. As of July 5, two of the six little ones were almost as big as their mother. The only way to tell them apart is the dark brown eye patch on the adult bird.

One key factor in favor of the goslings was the strong fatherly protection exhibited by the adult male. Witnesses reported that anytime other geese were in the area or other things threatened his goslings, the male would protect them with his life.

On separate occasions, a dog and a groundhog got too close for comfort, putting the male into defensive mode. On both occasions, father goose drove both animals into the deeper part of the lake and then tried drowning them by literally sitting on top of them. In both cases, the dog and groundhog barely escaped with their lives.

The goslings will continue to grow, reaching adulthood in two years. Then the cycle of life begins once again with another set of goslings braving the new world at Crystal Lake. Some of the six will fly away in search of a mate and a new home, while the others will stay at Crystal Lake with the parents, taking a mate that migrates to this area.

General News on 07/11/2018

Print Headline: Family of eight takes up residency at Crystal Lake

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