Community Partner

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Pacific Flyway Council

First Advisor

Mark Sytsma

Date of Award

Summer 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Environmental Management (MEM)


Environmental Science and Management




Geese -- Migration -- Climatic factors, Geese -- Conservation -- Oregon, Geese -- Behavior -- Climatic factors




This thesis considers the question of whether climate change is affecting the migration patterns of geese in the Pacific Flyway, specifically cackling geese (Branta hutchinsii minima) and Pacific white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons frontalis). Ancillary questions that are considered are as follows:

• If global warming is affecting these species, what is the nature of the effects?

• How are the changes affecting the human environment and what can be done about these effects?

In 1994, the majority of the cackler population in the Pacific Flyway began to winter in Oregon's Willamette Valley rather than in their historical wintering areas in California's Central Valley. In recent years, the Pacific white-fronted goose has shown a change in behavior similar to that of cacklers just before their major shift. The reasons for this shift have not been clear, though climate change, agricultural shifts, or competition with other species were thought to be possible causes.

Analyses of historical breeding and wintering surveys, bird band data, harvest data, agricultural data, and climate and weather data were undertaken in the course of this thesis to see if the cause or causes could be identified. The results showed that climate and weather data, i.e. an increase in average annual temperature coupled with occasional severe winters, most closely correlated with the cacklers' shift northward. The data comparison revealed that there is a direct relationship between cacklers and a warming shift seen on the wintering grounds. There also was a secondary correlation between the northward shift and recent changes in agricultural crops in the Willamette Valley. Substantially less data are available for white-fronts, and the relationship between their recent migration changes and climate and/or other factors is much less clear.


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A project report submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Environmental Management.

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