Canada Goose

Branta canadensis
Family

Anatidae (ducks, geese, swans) in the order Anseriformes

Description

Canada geese have a grayish-brown or tan body, usually with lighter-colored underparts. The long neck and head are black, as are the legs and webbed feet. A white chin patch extends along the sides of the head to the ears. During migration, they fly in chevrons (V-shaped groups).

Size

Length: 24–48 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).

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Photo of Canada geese pair with nest and goslings
Canada Goose Nest
On average, giant Canada geese poop every seven minutes. Watch where you step!

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Photo of young Canada goose gosling
Canada Goose Young

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Photo of Canada geese crowding on grassy area
Canada Geese Flock

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Canada geese on lawn
Canada Geese on Lawn

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Photo of two Canada geese and a white-fronted goose standing near a lake.
Canada Geese and White-Fronted Goose
Migratory animals play a role in every ecosystem they travel through, as well as in their breeding and overwintering places.

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Video of Canadian geese in the wild.

Canada Goose

Male Canada geese make a long, loud "a-honk!", while the females make a faster, higher-pitched "hink!" Goslings make a wheezy "wheep, wheep, wheep."
Habitat and conservation

Canada geese live on farm ponds, lakes, and marshes. Once close to extinction, this species has made an amazing recovery. They can be so numerous they cause problems from overgrazing, abundant droppings, collisions with aircraft, destruction of newly sprouted crops, and more. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects these geese, their nests, and eggs, but the Missouri Department of Conservation can issue permits to help control nuisance geese.

Foods

Canada geese are herbivore grazers, feeding on aquatic vegetation, tender grasses, and various other plants and seeds, as well as insects and aquatic organisms.

image of Canada Goose distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Common statewide on ponds, lakes, and marshes. In coldest winters, fewer Canada geese stay in northern Missouri.

Status

Locally common summer resident on farm ponds, lakes, and marshes; common migrant and winter resident throughout the state.

Life cycle

The giant Canada goose subspecies is resident in Missouri, while other subspecies are seasonal migrants only. Their calls as they fly over in a V-formation signal spring and autumn. Pairs bond in their second year of life and stay together for life (if one is killed, the other may find another mate). Usually 3–8 eggs are laid; adults lose their flight feathers during incubation and cannot fly for nearly a month. Young do not leave their parents until after the spring migration.

Human connections

Canada geese are popular among waterfowl hunters, but less popular in areas where their numbers cause inconvenience for landowners, golfers, park supervisors, and others.

Ecosystem connections

Many predators feed on the eggs and young. In addition to their grazing in wetlands throughout the state, Canada geese and other waterfowl have an important impact when they gather in wetland staging areas along migration routes.