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Canada Goose

Canada Goose

At a glance

The Canada goose is a very large, long-necked goose that often forms noisy flocks. It is an introduced species, establishing itself in the UK in the 18th century after being included in King James II waterfowl collection in St James’s Park. It is native to North America, where it is migratory, unlike the European populations, and can also be found in New Zealand where it was introduced as a game bird. At least 11 subspecies have been recognised, with the four smallest forms now considered a distinct species, the cackling goose.

Key facts

Scientific name: Branta canadensis
Status: Resident introduced population

Breeding birds: 62,000 pairs

Wintering birds: 190,000 birds

Conservation status: Introduced
Length: 75 – 110 cm
Wingspan: 130 – 180 cm
Weight: 2.5 – 6.5 kg
Typical lifespan: 6 years

What do Canada geese look like?

Adult Canada geese have dark brown upperparts with pale edges on the feathers that give a barred effect, and darker feathers on the upperwing. The lower back and rump are black, and there is a white V-shape on the black tail.

On the underparts, the breast is pale grey, the lower belly and undertail coverts are white, the flanks have a yellow wash, and the underwing is dark brown.

The head and neck are black except for a white patch on the cheeks that extends under the chin to form a chinstrap. The bill is black, the eyes are dark brown, and the legs and webbed feet are black.

Males and females look similar, but the male is larger than the female.

Juvenile Canada geese are duller overall, with a brown head and neck, and a pale brown wash on the cheek patch.

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How do Canada geese breed?

Canada geese begin breeding in late March and produce 1 brood a season. They are monogamous and will mate for life although they will find a new mate if their current mate dies. They nest in single pairs or colonies. The nest is usually situated on elevated ground near water, but they will also build the nest on cliff ledges, in trees, and manmade structures, as well as using the old nests of birds of prey such as ospreys. The female builds the nest alone, which is a bowl shaped structured made from sticks, grass, moss, and weeds, and lined with down.

Canada geese lay 5-7 creamy white eggs which become progressively stained by the nest over time, and which are incubated by the female alone for 25-30 days, while the male remains on guard nearby. Goslings are covered in olive-brown down on the upperparts and yellow down on the underparts. They are precocial and leave the nest after 24 hours accompanying their parents. They can feed themselves and may form creches with several adults defending them, until they can fly at about 10 weeks after hatching. They reach sexual maturity at 3 years.

What do Canada geese eat?

Canada geese graze on land for grasses, clover, sedges, and other plant matter, as well as crops, such as wheat, rice, and corn. They also eat aquatic plants, and occasionally insects, molluscs, crustaceans, small fish, snails, and tadpoles. They reach submerged plants and prey by dipping the head below the surface or upending.

Canada Goose

Where can I see Canada geese?

Canada geese can be found all over the UK except for the very north of Scotland. Look out for them on lakes, gravel pits, river valleys, estuaries, and in parks.

What do Canada geese sound like?

Aidan Place/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Canada geese pick mates of a similar size, a pattern biologists call “assortative mating”.

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One Response

  1. there is a canada goose at Pitfour Lake in aberdeenshire was surprised to see it today on its own no other geese around

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