Canada Goose

(Branta canadensis)

The Canada Goose, a well-known bird has a mottled gray-brown body, black legs, tail, neck, head; with a white rump band and white undertail coverts. The face is black with white cheeks, the white extending under the chin.

While not your typical backyard bird, they are common enough to be put on this list.

There are seven recognized subspecies of this Goose, distinguished by size, darkness or lightness of body and breast, presence or lack of a white collar at the base of the neck, and the extent of the white cheek patches.

The largest and most common of the subspecies is the goose we see in our lakes and ponds and often become a messy nuisance.


The Canada Goose is the most widely distributed goose in North America. Canada Geese breed in northern temperate, sub-arctic and arctic regions and nest in Canada, Alaska, and all of the lower 48 states.

They are found at a broad range of elevations, from coastal through alpine, and occupy a broad range of habitats, as long as there is water nearby. They are found in ponds, lakes, reservoirs, bays, estuaries, marshes, pastures and fields, city and suburban parks, golf courses,
and grassy waterfront yards.

The Canada goose prefer riverine areas for breeding, but will nest in a wide variety of wetland habitats. During winter and migration, these Geese are commonly seen in agricultural areas, foraging on grain, winter wheat, and pasture grasses.


The Geese graze while walking on land, and feed on submerged aquatic vegetation by reaching under the water with their long necks or by upending. They are strong swimmers, fliers, and divers. During winter and migration, Geese subspecies often flock together and mix with Cackling Geese. Flocks may contain over 1000 birds.

At migration stopover areas, disputes over food can lead to physical encounters between individuals; during fights, Geese grab each other's breast or throat with their bills and land blows with their wings.

Canada Geese are extremely territorial during the breeding season; males defend territories from other geese, humans, and nest predators by displays which may include lowering the head to the ground with the bill open, pumping the head up and down, and hissing.

They are well known for their "honking" call and most subspecies are very vocal in flight.


Primarily herbivores, they feed on a wide variety of plants and aquatic vegetation. In winter and during migration, waste grain left in plowed fields make up the majority of their diet. During the spring and summer, their diets include more green vegetation. Insects, mollusks, crustaceans, and occasionally small fish are also eaten.

Urban populations of Canada Geese

have adapted to grazing on domesticated grasses throughout
the year and making a mess in lawns
and parks.


The Canada Goose form long-term pair bonds, generally during their second year. The female chooses the nest-site on a slightly elevated spot near water with good visibility. She then builds the nest, a shallow bowl with a slight depression, made of sticks, grass, and weeds, and lined with down. She lays and incubates 4 to 10 or more eggs, while the male stands guard nearby.

Incubation last approximately 28 to 30 days. Once hatched, the young leave the nest within one to two days, at which time they are able to walk, swim, feed, and dive.

Both parents lead the offspring to feeding areas, but do not provide food.

The young are able to fly within seven to nine weeks after hatching, depending on the subspecies, and remain with their parents throughout their first year.

Parents are very protective and one adult is usually an guard duty with a watchful eye, while the other parent and babies feed.

Migration Status:

Historically, each population of Canada Goose followed a rigid migratory corridor with traditional stopovers and wintering areas, like most other North American geese.

Today, however, many urban populations are year-round residents. Other populations have changed migratory routes and wintering areas as habitats have changed.

Conservation Status:

Conservation of the Canada Goose is difficult since some subspecies found is so abundant it is controlled as a nuisance, while the others are less numerous. The situation is further complicated by altered habitat, human-assisted transplants, and interbreeding between subspecies.

Many people consider geese a nuisance, and their droppings (each birds leaves up to three pounds of droppings a day) have forced closures of beaches, athletic fields, and other recreational areas. Within the past few years, control measures have included egg shaking and oiling, relocating, and even killing large numbers of geese.

These stopgap measures, however, only temporarily reduce the urban populations, which rebound as long as they have abundant habitat and food.

The Canada Goose and Other Bird Profiles

SBI, Follow Your Passions

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