Winter distribution and resource use of animals is driven by myriad interacting biotic and abiotic factors. Urban areas provide sanctuaries from hunting for game animals and may have thermal benefits during winter through reduced thermoregulatory costs. We deployed cellular GPS transmitters affixed to neck collars of 41 Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) in the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Area (GCMA) of northeastern Illinois, USA, to determine habitat selection and survival during autumn and winter. Canada Geese selected green spaces (59.8%) in greater proportion than available (14%), but they also regularly used industrial urban habitats such as rooftops and rail yards (11.3%), which has not been previously reported. Use of green spaces (−55.8%) decreased and use of industrial urban ( 11.4%), riverine ( 23.8%), and deep-water habitats ( 140.7%) increased as temperatures dropped below the lower critical temperature for Canada Geese (i.e. the temperature at which increased thermoregulatory costs are incurred to maintain core body temperature). Most Canada Geese (85%) remained within the GCMA throughout winter, and none made foraging flights to agricultural fields within or outside of the urban area. Seasonal survival was considerably greater (S = 1.0) for geese that remained within the GCMA than those that left (S = 0.48) during winter. High survival, use of nontraditional habitats (e.g., green spaces, rooftops, and rail yards), and avoidance of agricultural fields suggests Canada Geese may be minimizing risk rather than maximizing energy intake by using urban areas during winter. Future research should focus on the thermoregulatory and movement strategies employed by geese to survive in urban areas where food resources may be limited. Further, researchers interested in discouraging geese should evaluate their response to harassment when temperatures are below the lower critical temperature.
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Vol. 119 • No. 4