Canada Goose

Branta canadensis

56-110cm

Appearance

This is a large goose which is common and therefore familiar. Its size depends on the race each bird belongs to, and the birds found in Britain are among the largest. The Canada Goose has a long neck and upright posture which is comparable to a swan. The male is broader and heavier than the female, but both are grey-brown with a black neck and head. There's a thick white band which begins at the back of the face, giving the bird white cheeks. The breast and flanks are pale and a flash of white can be seen under the tail. The darkest plumage is on the bird's back, where light-coloured feather margins cause barring. The bill and feet are black. Juveniles have less barring than the adults, and its white cheeks become more discernible with age.

Habitat

These geese need short, open grass for feeding. They live close to lowland lakes, often in urban parks or waterways, and also around flooded gravel pits and reservoirs. Some birds, including a number in Yorkshire, nest on moorland in heather and rushes, quite some distance from open water.

Character

This is the most ubiquitous goose, having been introduced from North America 300 or so years ago. It's a social bird when not in breeding season. It swims frequently, up-ending to reach food in water's depths, and it also grazes on land. Its wingbeats are powerful and it often flies in fairly unstructured flocks, more likely to form lines or 'V's on longer journeys. The Canada Goose roosts in big flocks on water or mud banks, and the birds walk or fly to their roosts at dusk.

Food

These birds eat roots, tubers, stems, grass, leaves, fruit and seeds. They also eat the leaves of crack willow and they strip leaves from the common reed. Winter diets consist of wheat and other cereals, grain, beans, clover, rushes and pondweeds.

Breeding

Nesting often occurs in loose colonies, which are separated into territories. The gander defends his family territory until the young have left the nest. This goose most commonly nests near water, with shelter such as a bush or a tree. The female begins laying at the end of March and incubates 5-7 eggs while the gander remains close. Eggs hatch after 28-30 days and goslings depart the nest after hatching. They're tended by both parents and the female broods them during the night while they are very young. Young geese fly after 40-48 days but stay with their parents until the following breeding season. Canada Geese breed when they're 3.

Population

Most of the population is in lowland England. The geese are scarce in Wales and largely absent from Scotland. It's thought that there are approximately 62 000 pairs in UK and 1 000 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

Canada Geese can become surprisingly tame in city environments such as parks and ornamental lakes.

Voice

These birds make a trumpet-like call, low and resonating.
Back to Bird Index