Canadian Geese: Branta Canadensis
Description Of The Canadian Goose
The Canada goose is one of the United States’ largest native waterfowl, weighing 6 to 13 pounds and measuring 22 to 48 inches in length. Its black head, bill, and neck contrast sharply with a pale gray breast, making it easy to spot. A distinctive field mark is the white cheek patch, or chinstrap, that covers the throat. The back and wings are gray-brown to dark brown, and the belly is white, with a black rump and tail feathers separated by a narrow but distinct band of white feathers.
Learn More: Birds That Are Pests
Canadian Geese Habitat
Canada geese breed in northern parts of North America, primarily in Canada and the United States’ northern half. Some temperate areas are warm enough for them to stay in their range all year, and they may not migrate. Some Canadian geese groups have established permanent residence in places that would not appear to be suitable for year-round habitation, such as Esquimalt, British Columbia, and Florida.
Nesting sites for Canadian geese are often found on elevated, secluded areas near water bodies such as lakes, streams, and ponds. The female goose constructs a nest out of plant material, and down she plucks from her body, and in it, she lays an egg every day until she has a full clutch of five or so eggs. The male geese serve as a sentry, keeping an eye on the nest from a distance.
Behavior Of Canadian Geese
Even in extreme cold, geese can stay in northern areas with some open water and food resources during the winter. Geese that breed in the far north of their range migrate long distances to winter in the far south, whereas geese that breed in southern Canada and the conterminous United States migrate only a short distance or do not migrate at all.
Year after year, geese tend to return to the same migratory stopover and wintering areas. Because of overwintering birds and movements between nighttime resting areas and feeding areas, spring migration can be difficult to track. Still, most migratory movements tend to move north behind the retreating snow line, where temperatures average 35 degrees.
Canadian Geese Migration Patterns
Geese migrate to areas where it is warmer, and food is plentiful. Canadian geese migrate in large flocks, typically in V-formations.
The drafting effect is what causes these birds to fly in a V-formation. This essentially aids the birds in conserving energy while flying long distances. The leader splits the air current in front (and at the same time uses the most energy). When he gets tired, he moves to the back, and another goose takes his place in front.
Every year, migrating birds usually take the same route. Routes or flyways are the names given to these paths. The Atlantic flyway (along the east coast of North America), the Central flyway (along the Rocky Mountains), the Mississippi flyway (named after the river), and the Pacific flyway are the flyways used by Canada Goose (west of the Rockies). 1Go To Source naturemappingfoundation.org -“Canada Goose”
Reproduction & Nesting Habits Of Canadian Geese
The majority of Canadian geese begin mating at the age of three, though some begin at the age of two. Couples usually stay together for the rest of their lives. If one of a pair’s members dies, the other usually finds a new mate during the same breeding season. Flocks split up into pairs in mid-to-late February to begin searching for a nesting location. Nesting begins in mid-March and lasts until late April.
A Canada goose nest’s location varies, but it is almost always within 150 feet of water. Islands, artificial nesting structures, vegetation along shorelines, muskrat houses, at the base of mature trees, in flower boxes and landscaping in urban/suburban areas, under shrubs, in thick aquatic vegetation such as cattails, and in doorways or on structures, especially rooftops, in urban and suburban areas are all ideal nesting sites for Canada geese.
The female and male will both defend the nest once nesting has begun. Every 1.5 days, the female lays eggs. Incubation begins once all of the eggs have been laid. For 28 days, the eggs are incubated. The average size of a clutch is 5 eggs, but it can range from 2 to 12 eggs. The nest, which is built in the shape of a bowl out of plant material and feathers from the female’s breast, can be anywhere from 12 to 40 inches in diameter. The nest’s eggs all hatch at the same time. Within 24 hours of hatching, the adults lead the goslings away from the nest. If a nest is destroyed before the eggs hatch, the couple will usually start re-nesting at or very close to the original nesting site. If the original nest is destroyed early in the nesting season, Canadian geese are likely to re-nest.
For about 10-12 weeks after hatching, both adults, especially the male, fiercely defend their broods. As the goslings grow older and gain the ability to fly, this defense weakens. During this time, it is common to see several broods of goslings together, known as gang broods. The number of goslings in a gang brood can range from 20 to 100, with only a few adults in charge. Gang broods are more common in areas where there are a lot of nests. Long into the winter, family groups of parents, that year’s offspring, and occasionally one or two of the previous year’s goslings stay together. 2Go To Source in.gov -“Canada Geese Behavior & Biology”
Canadian Goose Diet
Geese are grazing birds that eat both wild and cultivated plants. Rhizomes, roots, shoots, stems, blades, and seeds are among the foods they consume. Some of the foods they eat include:
- Spike Rush
- American Bulrush
- Widgeon Grass
- Pondweed, Eelgrass
They can harm cultivated crops, especially young wheat shoots planted in the fall. Animal matter isn’t a big part of their diet, but they do eat insects, crustaceans, and snails on occasion.
Geese tip their bodies, dip their heads under, and pull up vegetation when feeding in shallow water. They feed in groups on land, and at least one party member is always looking for danger. To feed, geese usually follow a pattern. They leave the water — river, pond, lake, impoundment, or other body of water — at about dawn each day, fly to feeding areas and feed for two or three hours. Then they return to the water to rest before returning to feed in the evening. Depending on food availability, they fly distances ranging from a few hundred yards to more than 20 miles on such forays. 3Go To Source pgc.pa.gov -“Canada Goose Wildlife Note”
Canadian Geese A Protected Species
Federal and state laws/regulations protect all Canadian geese, including resident flocks. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) are all responsible for Canada geese management. Except as permitted by USFWS and DEC regulations, it is illegal to possess, purchase, sell, hunt, or kill migratory birds or their body parts(eggs, nests, feathers). 4Go To Source dec.ny.gov -“Canada Goose”
Canadian Geese As Pests
Because of their proclivity for grazing on manicured lawns, which results in unsanitary defecation and potential damage to the ground cover, Canadian geese are sometimes considered pests. Large flocks of geese compact the soil, making it less conducive to future growth. For some, such as country clubs, lawn enthusiasts, and the agricultural community, attempting to deter Canadian geese from foraging on lawns may come at a high financial cost.
Avian influenza, avian cholera, botulism, salmonellosis, chlamydiosis, duck virus enteritis (DVE or duck plague), aspergillosis, and various parasites are all diseases that Canadian geese can carry. These and other parasites, bacteria, and viruses can be carried by geese and spread to humans and other animals through their feces. As a result, the management of water sources may be hampered by their unsanitary feces.
Large flocks of Canadian geese can harm airplanes. Because of their presence on the runway, geese can cause takeoff and landing delays. A goose (or a flock of geese) can get into the engine and cause the plane to crash in extreme cases. It costs money to manage waterfowl activity near airports and control towers and deal with aircraft losses. However, the human lives lost as a result of these accidents are incalculable. 5Go To Source animaldiversity.org -“Branta canadensis Canada goose”
Damage From Canadian Geese
Because the goose tends to congregate in the same areas as humans, issues arise. Geese are grazers who wreak havoc on crops, landscapes, gardens, and other vegetation. Feces contaminates the environment around bodies of water and harms indigenous animal populations. Bacteria in the feces can cause serious health problems by aiding in the spread of disease. Human-fed geese may lose their natural fear of humans, becoming territorial and attacking adults, children, and even pets.
Canadian Geese Trapping & Removal
A migratory bird law protects geese, and you have limited options for removing them from your property. A homeowner may not legally kill a Canadian goose. This means you can’t kill one by shooting it, poisoning it, lethally trapping it, or bludgeoning it to death. Even if you could get close enough to harass one, these birds are extremely aggressive and protective, and they would almost certainly retaliate. Harassment methods are permitted, and they can include everything from sound cannons to barking dogs. This type of harassment is effective—at least for a short time. Sound cannons cause birds to fly away, but they will eventually return.
Canada geese will be less likely to land in areas where they are nuisances if their food source is removed. The more geese that have grown accustomed to living near humans, the less likely they are to leave populated areas. It’s not always possible to eliminate a food source. Certain grasses and algae are particularly appealing to geese, and killing off a plant important to other ecosystems is not always practical or recommended.
In reality, removing geese is not a task that the average property owner should attempt on their own. The laws governing Canadian geese make control difficult, and the animal’s tenacious behavior makes the permitted course of action difficult to follow. This is one situation where hiring a professional is highly recommended. Wildlife removal experts at Animals Happen can inform you on what is allowed in your state and plan out the best goose exclusion plan for your property.
- “Canada Goose Facts for Kids – NatureMapping.” Washington Naturemapping, Nature Mapping, naturemappingfoundation.org/natmap/facts/canada_goose_k6.html#:%7E:text=Their%20habitat%20preference%20includes%20ponds,fields%2C%20fresh%20and%20saltwater%20marshes.&text=What%20they%20eat%3A%20The%20Canada,cattail%20stems%20lined%20with%20down. Accessed 10 Mar. 2021.
- “DNR: Canada Geese Behavior & Biology.” Indiana Department Of Natural Resources, Indiana DNR, www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/2999.htm. Accessed 10 Mar. 2021.
- PGC. “Canada Goose Wildlife Note.” Pennsylvania Game Commission, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, www.pgc.pa.gov/Education/WildlifeNotesIndex/Pages/CanadaGoose.aspx. Accessed 10 Mar. 2021.
- “Canada Goose – NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation.” New York State, State Of New York, www.dec.ny.gov/animals/34434.html. Accessed 10 Mar. 2021.
- Yarza, F. 2014. “Branta canadensis” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed March 10, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Branta_canadensis/