They're a familiar sight all over the city (and considered a pest by many), but Canada Geese just barely survived extinction in the early 20th century. Along with several other North American species, they were almost wiped out by over-hunting and the growing American population. It wasn't until the 1930s that the U.S. government intervened and implemented measures to protect the species, including the outlawing of "live decoys," or geese with clipped wings as hunting lures.
These geese were then raised in captivity, and raised generations of young who never learned to migrate. Those birds were the ancestors of today's non-migratory geese, now seen all over Boston in parks, yards, ponds, and walkways. In fact, the population has exploded—in just the past twenty years, the number of Canada Geese in the Northeast has tripled.
Before our relationship with geese became "complicated", one of Boston's earliest photographers used them as inspiration. The world's oldest surviving aerial photo — "Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It" — was taken by James Wallace Black in 1860 from a hot air balloon.