Canada Goose | MDC Discover Nature canada goose contact

Canada Goose

Branta canadensis

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canada-goose_swimming_10-30-13.jpg

Photo of Canada goose swimming
Jim Rathert
Family

Anatidae (ducks, geese, swans) in the order Anseriformes

Description

Canada geese have a grayish-brown or tan body, usually with lighter-colored underparts. The long neck and head are black, as are the legs and webbed feet. A white chin patch extends along the sides of the head to the ears. During migration, they fly in chevrons (V-shaped groups).

Size

Length: 24–48 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).

canada-goose_nest_10-30-13.jpg

Photo of Canada geese pair with nest and goslings
Canada Goose Nest
On average, giant Canada geese poop every seven minutes. Watch where you step!

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Photo of young Canada goose gosling
Canada Goose Young

canada_goose_flock_10-30-13.jpg

Photo of Canada geese crowding on grassy area
Canada Geese Flock

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Canada geese on lawn
Canada Geese on Lawn

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Photo of two Canada geese and a white-fronted goose standing near a lake.
Canada Geese and White-Fronted Goose
Migratory animals play a role in every ecosystem they travel through, as well as in their breeding and overwintering places.

FG-0026_Goose_Canada.mp4

Video of Canadian geese in the wild.

Canada Goose

Male Canada geese make a long, loud "a-honk!", while the females make a faster, higher-pitched "hink!" Goslings make a wheezy "wheep, wheep, wheep."

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Habitat and conservation

Canada geese live on farm ponds, lakes, and marshes. Once close to extinction, this species has made an amazing recovery. They can be so numerous they cause problems from overgrazing, abundant droppings, collisions with aircraft, destruction of newly sprouted crops, and more. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects these geese, their nests, and eggs, but the Missouri Department of Conservation can issue permits to help control nuisance geese.

Foods

Canada geese are herbivore grazers, feeding on aquatic vegetation, tender grasses, and various other plants and seeds, as well as insects and aquatic organisms.

image of Canada Goose distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Common statewide on ponds, lakes, and marshes. In coldest winters, fewer Canada geese stay in northern Missouri.

Status

Locally common summer resident on farm ponds, lakes, and marshes; common migrant and winter resident throughout the state.

Life cycle

The giant Canada goose subspecies is resident in Missouri, while other subspecies are seasonal migrants only. Their calls as they fly over in a V-formation signal spring and autumn. Pairs bond in their second year of life and stay together for life (if one is killed, the other may find another mate). Usually 3–8 eggs are laid; adults lose their flight feathers during incubation and cannot fly for nearly a month. Young do not leave their parents until after the spring migration.

Human connections

Canada geese are popular among waterfowl hunters, but less popular in areas where their numbers cause inconvenience for landowners, golfers, park supervisors, and others.

Ecosystem connections

Many predators feed on the eggs and young. In addition to their grazing in wetlands throughout the state, Canada geese and other waterfowl have an important impact when they gather in wetland staging areas along migration routes.


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canada goose miehet
foto d'oca
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Canada Goose Mænd

Photo: Benjamin Schelling/Audubon Photography Awards

Canada Goose

Branta canadensis

This big "Honker" is among our best-known waterfowl. In many regions, flights of Canada Geese passing over in V-formation -- northbound in spring, southbound in fall -- are universally recognized as signs of the changing seasons. Once considered a symbol of wilderness, this goose has adapted well to civilization, nesting around park ponds and golf courses; in a few places, it has even become something of a nuisance. Local forms vary greatly in size, and the smallest ones are now regarded as a separate species, Cackling Goose.
Conservation status Species as a whole probably still increasing: responds well to management on wildlife refuges, and has become a common resident of city lakes and parks in many areas. Some distinctive populations are scarce or declining.
Family Ducks and Geese
Habitat Lakes, ponds, bays, marshes, fields. Very diverse, using different habitats in different regions; always nests near water, winters where feeding areas are within commuting distance of water. Nesting habitats include tundra, fresh marshes, salt marshes, lakes in wooded country. Often feeds in open fields, especially in winter. In recent years, also resident in city parks, suburban ponds.
This big "Honker" is among our best-known waterfowl. In many regions, flights of Canada Geese passing over in V-formation -- northbound in spring, southbound in fall -- are universally recognized as signs of the changing seasons. Once considered a symbol of wilderness, this goose has adapted well to civilization, nesting around park ponds and golf courses; in a few places, it has even become something of a nuisance. Local forms vary greatly in size, and the smallest ones are now regarded as a separate species, Cackling Goose.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • adult male and female with goslings
  • adult
  • adult
  • adults
  • adults
Feeding Behavior

forages mostly by grazing while walking on land; also feeds in water, submerging head and neck, sometimes up-ending. Feeds in flocks at most seasons.


Eggs

4-7, sometimes 2-11. White, becoming nest-stained. Incubation is by female, 25-28 days; male stands guard nearby. Young: Parents lead young from nest 1-2 days after hatching. Young are tended by both parents, but feed themselves. Age at first flight varies, usually 7-9 weeks, tending to be longer in the largest forms.


Young

Parents lead young from nest 1-2 days after hatching. Young are tended by both parents, but feed themselves. Age at first flight varies, usually 7-9 weeks, tending to be longer in the largest forms.

Diet

almost entirely plant material. Feeds on very wide variety of plants. Eats stems and shoots of grasses, sedges, aquatic plants, also seeds and berries; consumes many cultivated grains (especially on refuges, where crops planted for geese). Occasionally eats some insects, mollusks, crustaceans, sometimes small fish.


Nesting

May mate for life. Male defends territory with displays, including lowering head almost to ground with bill slightly raised and open, hissing; also pumps head up and down while standing. Nest site (chosen by female) is usually on slightly elevated dry ground near water, with good visibility. Much variation; may nest on cliff ledges, on muskrat houses, in trees, on artificial platforms. Nest (built by female) is slight depression with shallow bowl of sticks, grass, weeds, moss, lined with down.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Historically, each local population followed rigid migratory path, with traditional stopovers and wintering areas. Today many geese in urban areas and on refuges are permanent residents. Other populations have changed routes or wintering areas as habitats have changed.

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Migration

Historically, each local population followed rigid migratory path, with traditional stopovers and wintering areas. Today many geese in urban areas and on refuges are permanent residents. Other populations have changed routes or wintering areas as habitats have changed.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Rich musical honking.
  • honking of several geese
  • pair flying overhead
  • excited pair taking flight
  • pair cavorting near nest
  • large flock flying over
  • whirring sounds of goslings
  • adult alarm hisses & barks
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.


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