Species: Branta canadensis
Canada Goose General Information
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Canada Geese are the most recognized waterfowl in North America mainly recognized by their v-shaped formation during migration. Commonly called Canadian geese, the term “Canadian” is incorrect. “Canada” is always the proper term.
They are identified by their long black neck, head, crown and bill, white cheeks and throat, white under tails, black upper wings and whitish-brown breast and belly. Young Canada geese look like ducklings with their yellow and gray feathers and dark bill, but their feathers get darker as they grow older.
There are up to seven species of the Canada goose. The largest, the giant Canada goose was considered extinct until they were rediscovered in 1960. They have a wingspan of 6 feet and weight up to twenty pounds. They are native to the Great Plains and non-migratory. The smallest species is the crackling goose weighing two to four pounds. The most abundant Canada goose race is in Hudson Bay where there are over a million. The rarest is found on the Aleutian Islands.
Male and female Canada geese mate for life. The female starts building a nest in early March made out of grass and plant material and lined with feathers. They build their nests on islands and shorelines and beaver logs. Because they are very adaptable to their surroundings they have been know to build their nests on the edge of runways or water traps on golf courses or wherever they feel is safest. The female will lay five to seven eggs called a “clutch”. Each egg takes over a day to lay, so while this is happening, the male guards the nest. If something gets to close, he will spread his wings and hiss. After a month of incubation the newly hatched “goslings” are able to swim immediately. Once the eggs hatch, the adults take the goslings and migrate away from the nesting area towards the feeding areas. Five weeks later, adult Canada geese begin to molt during which they can’t fly. In early autumn, when they re-grow their feathers, the whole family migrates south. During this time, the goslings learn the route from their parents.
The Canada goose makes several sounds when feeling threatened or when excited. The adult male, also known as a gander, makes a slow low pitched “a honk” sound. The female goose produces a higher “hink” sound. Adults meet and greet each other by producing alternate calls rapidly making it sound like only one of them is talking. Baby goslings have a wheezy soft call of “wheep-wheep-wheep” or a drawn out ‘wheee-oow”.
Predators of the Canada goose are the arctic fox, gulls, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, snowy owls, and prairie falcons. In the northwest, where predators are not that common, the Canada goose has become non migratory.
Interesting Fact: The Canada goose is on the Canadian dollar.
Canada Geese as Pests
Canada geese normally eat aquatic vegetation, grass, roots and young sprouts, but because they adapt easily to their surroundings, they can become a pest by eating grain, corn, wheat and turf grass. The Aleutian Canada goose has become a pest in recent years in several counties in California. They migrate to fields just as the grass has been fertilized and is growing strong. They arrive by the thousands and eat all the grass down until there is nothing left for cows to eat. The Canada goose produces a large amount of feces. If deposited on playground and athletic fields, it can render these places useless for humans to use. The Canada goose also loves ponds. The shedding of their feathers can be a huge litter problem and their feces in the pond can cause the bacteria count to increase making swimming in the pond not possible. The Canada goose is common in parks in urban areas and has been known to walk young goslings across streets causing traffic jams.
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