NatureMapping Animal Facts for Kids

Canada Goose

Canada goose head photo

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
also known incorrectly as the "Canadian Goose"
Ganso de Canadá - en Español
Species Code: BRCA

distribution map What they look like: The Canada Goose is well known for flying in a distinctive V-formation, its loud "honk" and its unmistakable looks. A Canada Goose gander can reach 14 pounds and can have a wing spread of up to 5 feet.

Males and females have very similar plumage: head and neck are black, with bold white cheek patch. body grey-brown; feathers under tail white.

The call is a series of loud "honks" when flying.
Listen to calls of this species »

Canada goose photo

Where they live: The most familiar and widespread goose in North America, the Canada Goose can be found in all kinds of water all across the continent, from the tundra to the Gulf Coast. Some populations have become resident in urban areas, and are now coming into conflict with people.

This species is locally common throughout the lowlands of the state in the wetlands and waterways, cities, and agricultural areas (except the extensive dryland fields of eastern Washington).

Their habitat preference includes ponds, lakes, rivers, grain fields, fresh and saltwater marshes.

Click the range map to learn more about the distribution of the Canada Goose in Washington.

What they eat: The Canada goose favors aquatic plants, small aquatic animals, grass, and grains.

Nesting: The nest is a large mound of vegetation such as grass and cattail stems lined with down.  It is usually located within sight of water. 4 to 7 white eggs make up a typical clutch and incubation is done solely by the female.  The gander (male) zealously guards the nest and will attack any intruders. Incubation takes 25 to 30 days and the goslings are led to water within a day after hatching. The goslings stay with the parents until the following spring.

Canada goose head photo

Behavior: The gander is a fierce defender of his mate and offspring, and will charge any suspected enemy, even one as large as an elk. Mated pairs can be together as long as 20 years.

Migration: The geese migrate to places where it is warmer and where food is available. Canada Geese migrate in large groups in the familiar V-formation.

Scientists think that the reason these birds fly in the V-formation is due to what is known as the ‘drafting effect’. Basically, this helps the birds to conserve their energy while flying long distances. The leader in the front splits the air current (and at the same time uses the most energy). When he tires, he moves to the back then another goose takes over the lead spot.

Migrating birds usually follow the same path every year. These paths are called routes or flyways. The flyways used by the Canada Goose are : the Atlantic flyway (along the east coast of North America), the Mississippi flyway (named after the river), the Central flyway (along the Rocky Mountains) and the Pacific flyway (west of the Rockies).

Some migratory populations of the Canada Goose are not going as far south in the winter as they used to. This northward range shift has been attributed to changes in farm practices that makes waste grain more available in fall and winter, as well as changes in hunting pressure and changes in weather.

Did you know?

  • The female is called a goose and the male is a gander. The young are know as goslings.
  • They form flocks to fly south for the winter
  • The Canada goose has webbed feet for swimming.
  • A group of geese has many collective nouns, including a "flock", "chevron", and "string" of geese.

Canada goose photo
Canada Goose      photo courtesy of Natures Pics

Animal silhouettes available to purchase »

Photos: Natures Pics

Photos: Canada Goose photo gallery

Canada Goose wing feathers

Videos: Canada Goose videos

More Information: Canada Goose - All About Birds

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