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Canada Goose
Branta canadensis

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) in the Thames, England
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
in the Thames by Windsor and Eton,
England, United Kingdom, 2006.


The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is natural to North America, including Greenland. In its seven subspecies, or geographical variations, it is found in most of Canada and the United States.

In the summer it nests on the northern part of the continent, from Alaska to eastern Canada, and Greenland. Those nesting in Greenland give indications to be a natural expansion of the populations nesting in northeast Canada, which have increased in the last years.

These geese move to winter from southern Canada to southern United States and northern Mexico. During fall, as it migrates south, in the Pacific some reach Japan, China and Hawaii. In the Atlantic some make it to the Bahamas and the Greater Antilles. They are considered occasional in Cuba. Also, on the Atlantic side of its distribution, the Canada Geese reach Ireland and the western shores of Great Britain, and it is recorded in most of Europe.

The Canada Goose has been successfully introduced to the United Kingdom, Iceland, Scandinavia and New Zealand. Within the United States they have been introduced in many places where it was not natural, many turning loose, and now it is possible to see this goose anywhere in the continuous 48 states.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) and Eastern White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus)
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
and Eastern White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus)
in St. James Park, London, England.


Most of the subspecies populations are migratory. The subspecies Vancouver Canada Goose (Branta canadensis fulva) appears to be sedentary, with some members being migratory. The Giant Canada Geese (Branta canadensis maxima) that nest to the north of the subspecies's distribution are migratory, the populations nesting further south (at least part of those nesting in the USA) are sedentary.


The flight is strong and capable of long journeys. During migrations the flocks fly in “V” formation. During short flights they usually maintain echelon formation (which is like a leg or branch of the “V”).


Some of the populations nest in the tundra, otherwise, it is found in lakes and low vegetation fields near by. The lakes can vary in size from the Great Lakes to small ponds. It is also seen in rivers and other water deposits, which can be in prairie type vegetation, forests and even cities. Also present in freshwater and brackish water marshes.


During breeding the pairs establish and defend a territory. When not nesting they are gregarious, congregating in great numbers of its own species. In nature it is possible to see a Canada Goose in flocks of other geese, such as Greater White-fronted Goose, Snow Goose and Pink-footed Goose.

In ornamental ponds it is seen with birds of its own size. Normally smaller birds keep their distance from the Canada Goose, but in the case of White Pelicans and Swans, the roles are reversed and the Canada Goose keeps its distance.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) with goslings
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)


The nesting season is during spring and starts at different time according to location. This goose nests solitary and in spread out colonies. The pair selects an area or territory which the male defends from other geese. The size of this territory depends on the density of breeding pairs, age of the members of the pair, location, and other factors. It is likely that a pair may use the same territory as it did the previous year.

Among the places where it has been seen breeding are: marshes, islands, risks, tree platforms, rivers and tundra. Usually a place close by water is selected for nesting. The nest is made with grass, the female adds down to it.

The clutch is three to eleven eggs, normally four to six. In the artic, if a pair looses the clutch, they most likely will not re-nest. However, in the case of those nesting in the continuous 48 states, it is probable that the pair will re-nest.

Incubation takes 25 to 30 days and is done by the female. The female takes two breaks daily to eat, bathe, etc. while the male stays with her and keeps watch. The young are able to fly from 49 to 73 days after hatching. They stay with the parents until the end of winter.

Nesting for the first time could be from two to four years of age. Some youngsters a year old, of both sexes, have successfully bred.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) in Little Venice, London.
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
in Little Venice, in the canals of London.


The diet of this goose includes roots, seeds and grass.


The sexes are alike except the males are larger. The differences in size among the subspecies are considerable. On the page of Taxonomy there are some references to the maximum weight of each subspecies.


Only one molt a year.


The Canada Goose locally is also known as “Canada” and “Honker”.
In French: “Bernache du Canada”.
In Spanish it is called “Barnacla Canadiense”, “Ganso Canadiense”, “Ganso de Canadá” and “Ganso del Canadá”.

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Last revision: March 1, 2007
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