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Canada Goose

Branta canadensis

Canada geese always live in flocks, except when nesting. (Stephen Little/Flickr)
Canada geese always live in flocks, except when nesting. (Stephen Little/Flickr)

The Canada goose is a large, plump bird with a brownish back and a long, black neck. It is a common visitor to the Chesapeake Bay region from autumn through spring. Many Canada geese also live in the Bay watershed year-round.

Appearance:

  • Brownish-gray back
  • Tan or cream breast and underparts
  • Long, black neck and black head with a white “chinstrap” across the chin and cheeks
  • Black, rounded bill
  • Black tail with a white, U-shaped band on the rump
  • Grows to an average of 45 inches, but can vary greatly in size
  • Wingspan of about 68 inches

Habitat:

  • Found on shallow waters along the Chesapeake Bay and creeks, lakes, ponds, marshes and reservoirs
  • Also frequents farm fields, parks and golf courses that are located near water
  • Always lives in flocks, except when nesting

Range:

  • Abundant throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed year-round
  • Most geese migrate to the Bay region in early autumn and remain through spring before returning to their northern breeding grounds
  • Local resident populations stay in the region throughout the year

Feeding:

  • Feeds primarily on corn and grains in farm fields
  • Also eats bay grasses in the Bay’s shallows
  • In the water, feeds by “tipping up” its tail to submerge its head underwater

Predators:

  • Humans hunt adult geese
  • Gulls, crows and other large birds may prey on eggs and young geese (called goslings)
  • One or more mature geese usually stands guard against predators while other geese are feeding

Flight:

  • Flocks fly in wedge- or V-shaped formations, with older birds in front and younger birds in the back. The loud, honking flocks are often heard before they are seen.
  • Usually takes off from the water by running across the surface and flapping its wings. But when they are startled, Canada geese can fly straight up from the water like dabbling ducks.
  • Lands by holding its wings out straight and skidding onto the land or water
  • Can be identified in flight by its long, straight neck and white, U-shaped band on the rump

Voice:

  • Deep, distinctive honk
Canada Goose courtesy of Pamela C. Rasmussen/Avian Vocalizations Center

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Most Canada geese breed in the Arctic, though many now breed in the Bay region
  • Pairs often mate for life
  • The female build a nest of reeds, grass and down, usually on the ground near water. The male guards the nest against predators.
  • The female lays 3-9 eggs that hatch in about one month
  • Goslings are fluffy and yellow. They begin to fly 40-70 days after birth.
  • Can live as long as 20-25 years

Other Facts:

  • The most widespread goose in North America
  • Scientists believe there are 10-11 various Canada goose races
  • Some consider resident Canada geese to be a nuisance because they can overgraze on lawns and crops. They also leave feces in parks, yards and other open areas, which is a significant source of pollution in many small, local waterways with large year-round goose populations.

Sources and Additional Information:

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