Canada Goose

Common Name: Canada Goose
Class: Aves
Order:
Anseriformes
Family:
Anatidae
Genus:
Branta
Species:
Branta canadensis


photo Ivan Andrijevic

Taxonomy/Description

Canada Geese are in the family Anatidae. This family is made up of ducks and duck-like waterfowl. The members of this family share adaptations to life on the water including webbed feet, flattened bills, and feathers with special oils to prevent water absorption. The Canada Goose’s Latin name is Branta canadensis. Branta comes from the Anglo Saxon word “brennan” which means to burn. This refers to the reddish brown color found in many of the birds in this genus. “Ensis” is a suffix that means belonging to. Thus, canadensis means coming from Canada.


photo Ivan Andrijevic

The Canada Goose has a brown back, light colored belly, and long black neck. It has a white throat patch that extends to its cheek as well as a black bill. Its tail is black with white tail-coverts. Males and females have identical coloration. Goslings are yellow with greenish gray on their back and head and a black bill. There is much variability in color and size between different Canada Goose populations. For example, in the north, the populations may be duck-sized while further south, the Canada Goose populations are much larger than ducks. Coloration also varies from dark brown in the west to lighter colorations in the east.

Habitat/Diet

The Canada Goose is native to North America. It breeds mainly between 35°N and 70°N in the northern United States, Canada, and Alaska. However, because of introductions and other movements, nesting sites can be found throughout the continental United States. Wintering occurs from southern coastal Alaska and southern Canada to the southern United States and northern Mexico. The Canada goose has also naturally moved to Northern Europe, Japan, and eastern Siberia and China. Canada Geese will inhabit grassy areas near waterways. This includes commercial areas such as golf courses, farms, and airports.

The Canada Goose is a herbivore. It eats a variety of terrestrial grasses and aquatic vegetation as well as wheat, beans, rice, and corn when these foods are available. In the water, the Canada Goose will also feed on the silt.

Behavior/Reproduction

The Canada Goose moves well on the water, on land, and in the air. They are able to walk and run on land and paddle on the water. They are especially strong fliers and migrate long distances. During migration, a flock will fly in a “V” shape possibly to decrease the energetic output by increasing aerodynamics. Some populations of Canada Geese that live in milder climates have become non-migratory. Adults are rarely preyed upon. However, predators include the Golden Eagle, Coyote, Wolf, and Snowy Owl. Egg predators include the Arctic and Red Fox, Common Raven, American Crow and Glaucous, Iceland, and Glaucous-winged gulls.

The Canada Goose is monogamous. Pairs are formed in the second year and usually last for life. The Triumph Ceremony maintains pair bonds. This display involves loud honking and the waving of its neck. The female will select the nest site with the male following her. The nest is a depression in the ground close to water and is covered with nearby vegetation. The female will often make several scrapes in the ground before choosing the final nest site. The female lays 2 to 9 elliptical, cream-colored eggs. The female incubates the eggs for 23 to 30 days while the male defends the nest. After the eggs hatch, the family group (mother, father, and offspring) leave the nest. Young Canada Geese are precocial. They are not fed in the nest and thus must leave the nest soon after hatching to find food. The young fledge 68 to 78 days after hatching.

Vocalization

Goslings make strong single peeps and warbling trills. Adults have at least 13 different calls including the familiar honks as well as hrink and hrih. In some subspecies of Canada Geese, the male and female call lengths differ. However, during certain situations, including during the Triumph Ceremony, the male will shorten his call to match the female’s call creating a duet.

Where to see them in WNY

Look for the Canada Goose in grassy areas, especially those found near water. They can be found in many parks, ponds, and anywhere there is vegetation. They can also be seen flying overhead in a V shape.

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