The cardinal may be Ohio’s state bird, but the fowl spotted most in a recent count is considered by many to be its No. 1 pest.

The aggressive, messy Canada goose is so annoying that even the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium doesn’t want it around .

Because of its location along the O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, a major flyway for geese, the zoo is frequently visited by the unwanted birds, said Dan Hunt, assistant director of living collections.

“The first thing we try and do is exclude them from nesting in the sites that we know traditionally they might use,” Hunt said.

That doesn’t always work, so each morning and evening, Bonnie the border collie makes her rounds at the zoo, chasing away the geese who linger near ponds, leaving behind liberal amounts of droppings.

The Canada goose has been the most populous bird in Ohio in three of the past five years of the Great Backyard Bird Count. It was the second-most spotted bird in the country in this year’s count, Feb. 16-19, behind the American robin.

The northern cardinal finished a distant No. 2 in both Ohio and Columbus. The other finishers in Columbus, in order, were the house sparrow, ring-billed gull and dark-eyed junco.

Sponsored by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, the count enlists 80,000 volunteers in North America to count the birds they saw. Ohio was seventh among U.S. states in the number of participants this year.

“We’ve created the perfect goose habitat throughout this area with a number of retention ponds and the reservoir,” said Tom Sheley, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited on Riverside Drive and a participant in this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count.

Ohio also is smack in the middle of several birds’ migration patterns, said Judy Kolo-Rose, a member of Columbus Audubon.

Birds heading south from Canada in the winter and north from Central and South America in the summer pass through the state.

“Ohio is a very birdy state,” Kolo-Rose said.

This year, a record 3,652 Ohioans participated in the count, 132 in Columbus and 117 in the city’s suburbs. Last year, 2,904 people participated across the state, 80 in Columbus.

As a result, more birds were spotted in Columbus, 8,602 this year vs. 5,293 last year.

The count is done in February because that is the middle of a nonmigratory period, Sheley said. It’s also easy to attract birds to feeders because natural food is still not in bountiful supply.

Pat Leonard, who coordinates the count for Cornell University, said the reports from volunteers help scientists evaluate trends in the bird community. That is increasingly important as the global climate changes, she said.

“We’re already seeing some changes in ranges from species that might not go quite as far south as they usually do,” Leonard said.

The Canada goose, for example, goes only as far south as necessary to find open water. Last year, only 445 were spotted in Columbus. With this year’s mild winter and relatively unfrozen O’Shaughnessy and Hoover reservoirs, the number of geese increased by nearly five times.

For Port Columbus, that is more than an inconvenience.

“Geese can create a hazard with flying aircraft, such as engine ingestion,” airport spokesman Dave Whitaker said. “That is not conducive to good flying.”

Among other things, the airport places inflatable alligators on the ponds at the Airport Golf Course to discourage the geese from landing.

If none of the techniques works, the airport has the authority to shoot the geese.

Whitaker said he doesn’t think it’s gone that far yet.