Canada Goose

 

Common Name: Canada Goose
Class:

Aves

Anseriformes

Anatidae

Branta

Branta canadensis


Photo: Ivan Andrijevic

 

TAXONOMY

 

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 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 where they are smaller to the north and larger in the south. Coloration also varies from dark brown in the west to lighter colorations in the east.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Ivan Andrijevic

 

HABITAT/DIET

The Canada Goose is native to North America. It breeds mainly  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.

Photo: M. Noonan

 

BEHAVIOR

 

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 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, if they are preyed upon their predators include the Golden Eagle, Coyote, Wolf, and Snowy Owl. Egg predators include the Arctic and Red Fox, Common Raven, American Crow and a variety of species of gull.

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 will incubate these 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. This is possible because young Canada Geese are precocial which means they can see, have down and are mobile hours after hatching. The young fledge 68 to 78 days after hatching.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                         Photo: Henderson

 

 

WHERE TO FIND THEM

 

Look for the Canada Goose in grassy areas, especially those found near water. They can be found all year in many parks, ponds, and anywhere there is vegetation. They can also be seen flying overhead in a V shape especially during the migratory season where in some areas they can form flocks in the hundreds and thousands.

 

Photos: Faith Burns

 

Birds of Western New York is brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.