LOS ANGELES—In an annual ritual that has long heralded the changing of seasons, thousands of geese have left their native breeding grounds across North America and begun to head south, taking to the skies in droves as they migrate to actor Andy García’s house for the winter.
Each year, seeking to escape harsh weather, numerous varieties of Canada geese, snow geese, greater white-fronted geese, and cackling geese fatten up on vegetation in their natural habitats until they are plump enough to fly the thousands of miles necessary to reach the friendlier climes of the Academy Award nominee’s 6,747-square-foot Spanish-style hacienda in Toluca Lake, CA.
“While we do not yet fully understand the phenomenon, we do know these geese are born with an instinctual ability to find their way to Andy García’s house year after year, without fail,” Cornell University ornithologist Martin Copeland said Thursday, noting that the migratory pattern dates back at least two decades, to García’s purchase of the house from fellow actor Henry Winkler in 1993. “It is truly a wondrous feat.”
In their attempts to explain how thousands upon thousands of waterfowl arrive “like clockwork” each winter at the home of the Ocean’s 11 star, biologists said it was likely the geese oriented themselves by detecting magnetic fields and following olfactory cues, as well as by recognizing key landmarks such as the Rocky Mountains, the Mojave Desert, neighbor George Lopez’s house, and other topographical features.
Reached for comment, García told reporters that over the years he has grown accustomed to entire populations of diverse geese species settling down on his property for the colder months.
“Just yesterday, we had another 50,000 show up here,” García said while raking goose feathers into mountainous piles on his lawn. “Every year the geese arrive in hordes and then stay the whole winter. I tried chasing them away at first, but eventually I just gave up.”
“They really like the pool,” he added.
García, a Cuban-born American who made his professional acting debut in the bilingual sitcom ¿Qué Pasa, U.S.A.?, said the first 10,000 or so geese that arrive for the season stake out spots in the gutters, chimneys, and hedges, and then within days there are hundreds of thousands spreading their way all over his yard.
By Christmas, García confirmed, he cannot back his car out of the garage without first using a snow shovel to physically clear a path to the street by throwing the displaced geese into towering heaps on either side of his driveway.
“Even if I’m just making a quick run to the store, by the time I get home, a dozen new flocks will have arrived, and the drive is all clogged with geese again,” García said. “Who can keep up with that? There’s just too many. Besides, I suppose these guys need a warm place to stay for the winter, same as anyone else.”
While conceding the geese have just as much claim to the ecosystem of the San Fernando Valley as he and his family do, the veteran actor expressed frustration over the problems the birds had created for him as a homeowner. At any point during the winter, he said, around four or five thousand are staked out in the hot tub, with another 20,000 clogging the house’s ductwork.
García also stated that as many 50,000 birds fly into his windows each week, making it difficult to carry on a simple conversation without shouting. In addition, he said, the constant noise pollution of honking has led to a barrage of complaints from his neighbors, who “somehow don’t have a single goddamn goose on their lawns.”
“It’s a lot of work having them around,” said García, vigorously scraping at a thick accumulation of goose feces that had effectively glued shut the door of his mailbox. “Every morning when I wake up, I drain the pool, refill it with fresh water, and clean all the goose down from the filter.”
“And then, since there are no food sources for the geese anywhere on my property, I usually sprinkle some bread crumbs on the back porch,” he continued. “We probably go through 150,000 loaves every winter.”
García admitted that while it’s a huge relief when the birds leave in springtime, it can also make him feel a bit wistful.
“As soon as the last one leaves my lawn, I let out a huge sigh,” García said. “But when I see those majestic V-formations swooping across the sky, I get a little misty, even though I know they’re simply embarking on their annual cross-country journey to spend the summer atop Stanley Tucci’s Upper East Side townhouse in New York.”