Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

It’s that time of year — the Canada geese have returned, and they’ve started to proliferate. While the geese and their tiny chicks may be a nuisance for drivers (and dog walkers), I love this season. Seeing goslings on every street corner is pretty adorable. So I decided it’s about time I did a post on these Canadian icons.

Canada geese don’t just live in Canada. They range over all over North America, including Canada, USA and Mexico. They have also been introduced to other continents, both intentionally and unintentionally. Canada geese are present in Europe, northeastern Asia, and New Zealand.

Geese like open areas where there are no places for predators to hide. They are also big fans of water, often hanging around ponds or marshes. So with humans constantly mowing lawns and building nice pretty ponds (especially for golf courses), it’s no wonder they are present in a lot of urban areas.

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A Canada goose posing for the camera. Image credit: Andreas Trepte via Wikipedia

I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with what Canada geese look like: long black heads and necks, with white chinstraps, grey wings with white underbellies and black tails. They are quite large creatures, reaching 75 -110 cm in length with wingspans of 127-185 cm. The largest Canada goose on record was a male who weighed 10.9 kg, and had a wingspan of 2.24 m. That’s crazy big.

Breeding season for Canada geese is usually in April and May. The birds are monogamous, and generally stay together for life. Geese pair up based on size, but in this species, bigger isn’t necessarily better. Instead, the geese pair up with birds of similar size to themselves.

Females choose a nesting site, and often return to it year after year. Both sexes protect the nest and incubate the eggs, though females tend to spend more time at the nest. Canada geese lay between two and ten eggs, which hatch in about a month. The young are able to leave the nest after a day, and follow their parents to food and water. The chicks fledge after six to nine weeks.

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A lovely photo of a Canada goose with some cute little goslings. Image source

During the breeding season, Canada geese moult, and thus are unable to fly. This, and their vulnerable young, make Canada geese extremely protective throughout the breeding season. They will attack anything that comes too close to their nest or their chicks, even people.

Canada geese are famous for the migrations they make, especially for the very recognizable V formations they fly in. The V helps the geese conserve energy during long migrations. The front position is rotated among the geese, as it consumes the most energy. Using these flight methods, Canada geese can fly 2,400 km in a single day.

Overhunting and habitat destruction caused significant population declines to Canada geese in the early 20th century. After protection measures were put in place, the species rebounded, and has since become extremely common. In some areas Canada geese are considered pests, though they are still protected as a migratory species.

Note on the Cover image: I used two pictures in this post from Talains Photography Blog, which is a blog full of amazing pictures of a wide variety of birds, among other things. Go check it out!

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