The season of spring is known for a couple of aspects. It’s the time when flowers bloom, people begin to venture outside and wildlife give birth and raise their young. Being a mom in the wild is hard! In honor of Mother’s Day, here are several unique maternal strategies these local species have developed to keep their young safe and healthy.
Geese are great adoptive parents!
In humans, it’s important to remember that the term mother doesn’t always have to refer to someone that is biologically related. A mom can take the form of a grandma, a cousin, or a family friend. The same idea applies to Canada geese! Despite the aggressive perception that the public has of them, Canada geese are very caring and fantastic parents. A mother Canada goose will adopt an orphan gosling if it is around the same size as her other goslings and take care of it as if it was her own. Geese truly look out for each other! Goslings spend a lot of time with their mom, as they are constantly with her, traveling, eating and sleeping. In fact, goslings may end up staying with their mom for their entire first year of life. Mother geese will keep her babies under her wings at night to not only protect them from predators but to keep them warm. The willingness of Canada geese mothers to accept goslings that are not their own, allows wildlife rehabilitators and clinics (like the Wildlife Medical Clinic) to release goslings back into the wild and know that they are being well cared for! However, it is important to know that this is specific to Canada geese, doing this with baby ducks or mammals will not work out the same way!
An opossum mom is a walking jungle gym!
When people think of animals with a pouch, they commonly think of kangaroos! Many people overlook the Virginia opossum, which is the sole marsupial that lives in North America. Opposed to kangaroo mothers who can raise up to 3 joeys simultaneously in her pouch, opossum mothers may raise up to 13 babies in her pouch at once! That’s a lot to carry for one mom! As the babies begin to open their eyes, their curiosity gets the best of the them and they end up venturing out of their mom’s pouch on their own for longer and longer periods of time. Older babies spend a lot of time on their mother’s back and so mothers end up walking through the wild and searching for food with their own baby backpack. The babies are extremely good at gripping. This is very helpful because if they fall off, the mother will not go back for them, and they will be left to fend for themselves. Babies usually stay with mom for around 5 months, so opossum mothers have their hands full for a while! The next time you see an opossum, don’t be fooled, it may be a mom carrying more than meets the eye!
A killdeer mom is quite the actress!
Killdeers are a small, very vocal plover that like to nest in rocky, open areas. They make a small depression in the ground and usually lay four to six mottled eggs that resemble rocks. While their nest is quite camouflaged to the untrained eye, to a predator they are a little easier to spot. If this occurs, have no fear, mom has a trick she uses to lure those predators away. She first will make a lot of noise to alert the predator of her presence. Once she is seen, she will actually fake an injury and appear to have a broken wing. She gets so into it that you may even see her lay or roll around on the ground while moving her wing up and down, appearing to be in distress. This usually pulls the predator far enough away from her nest or if she has chicks, it gives them time to disperse and hide. Then mom has a miraculous recovery and flies away from the predator and back to her chicks, once it’s safe. Here is a great video that includes her nest and eggs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4t0sFIW-G_0.
Written by Nina, Class of 2026