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Canada Goose

Branta canadensis [bran' tuh kan uh den' sis]


The Canada goose is a large (up to nine pounds) gray-brown bird with black head and neck and a white patch extending from the chin, up the cheeks, to behind the eyes. The tail is black, while the feathers around the base of the tail are white. The white patch and tail coloration are what distinguish the Canada goose from other geese. Both sexes are similarly colored.

Canada Goose in flight

Goslings are yellow, with some greenish-gray colorings on the top of the head and back.

family of Canada Geese

Distribution and Habitat

Canada geese live in Alaska, Canada, and the northern parts of the United States, migrating southwards as far as the Gulf of Mexico in winter. They are also found on many country estates in the British Isles, where they were introduced in the 17th century. Canada geese frequent grasslands, lakes, marshlands and parklands, although they are also occasionally found on estuaries and seashores.


Most Canada geese mate for life, forming pairs during migration or on wintering grounds. The female chooses the location for nesting, and it is not uncommon for her to build the nest without any input or help from the male. The nest is usually a simple depression dug into the ground and lined with vegetation. Once the eggs are laid, the female will line the nest with feathers and down to provide insulation.

Egg laying begins as early as March and continues into June, depending on geographic location. Each egg takes about a day and a half to be laid. The average clutch contains five eggs, but there may be as few as two and as many as nine. They are incubated by the female for 25 to 28 days, with the male standing guard throughout the incubation period. Goslings are able to swim and feed soon after hatching, and are fully grown at six weeks.


When on land, Canada geese eat a variety of grasses, as well as wheat, beans, rice, and corn. In the water, they upend themselves and slide their bills across the bottom silt, from which they gather a variety of aquatic plants. They will also take worms, insects, snails, crustaceans, and some small fish.

Habits and Behaviors

Canada geese are rarely found alone. They fly in flocks in the form of a "V" or a diagonally straight line. They migrate at a slow pace, stopping frequently along the way.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Anseriformes
family Anatidae
genus & species Branta canadensis


Animal Diversity Web

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The Robinson Library >> Order Anseriformes

This page was last updated on September 01, 2018.