Canada Goose
Branta canadensis

 by Danielle K. Ragole

The Canada Goose, Branta canadensis, is a part of the Chordata phylum.  Its other classifications are: the Aves class, Anseriformes order, and the Anatidae family.  You can find the Canada Goose all over North America.  More specifically, they like to nest in areas near bodies of water such as marshes, lakes, and swamps. They like to build their nests in areas with good isolation from predators, but that also provide good visibility to see the oncoming predators.  They are migrating birds. When you see them migrating, you will notice that they fly in a “V” or a diagonal line.  This way, it minimizes the effort for the birds that are following the leader.  Their migration usually ranges from Canada and Alaska to the southern parts of the United States.  But in the past ten years, scientists have noticed that more of the birds are becoming permanent residents of the United States and are not going to Canada.

 Canada Geese are very easily recognizable birds.  Their weight ranges from about 2 to 12 pounds.  Their bodies are a grayish-brown color that ranges from light to dark depending on the subspecies.  Their neck, bill, feet, and head are black.  One thing that is unique to Canada Geese is the white semi-circle under their black tail that you can see when they are in flight.  The males tend to be a little larger than the females. Their bills have lamellae, or teeth, around the outside that they use for cutting materials to help build their nests.  They have very large wings that are used as a weapon when they are protecting themselves from other geese or predators.

 Canada Geese are herbivores.  When they are on land, they like to eat grass.  They will eat salt grass, wild barley, and Bermuda grass.  They also like nuts, wheat, rice, corn, and beans. In the water, they will eat algae, sea lettuce, and most other foliage that is found in lakes and ponds. 

 They have been a very popular gamebird for hundreds of years.  The Native Americans used to hunt them and today they are regularly hunted when in season.  Not only are they hunted by humans, but other animals such as hawks, ravens, dogs, and crows will try to eat their eggs.  The males are the protectors of the nest and fly around to warn the female of oncoming predators.  When the female hears him honking, she will lower her body on the nest and stretch out her neck to try to hide the nest so the predator cannot see it.

 Canada Geese have a bunch of interesting unique characteristics.  They can be very aggressive birds, especially the males.  They are becoming less afraid of humans because they are getting used to living around suburbia.  They have adapted to crossing streets with busy traffic.  And if you get in their way, they aren’t afraid to charge.  Not only do they fight with people, but also the males fight each other to win the female.  The winner and the female will mate for life.

 These birds are becoming increasingly annoying to humans.  Because they like to live in low grasses, they are flocking more to fields, crops, and lawns. This leads to overgrazing and lots of unwanted feces in these areas.  Since they are becoming less intimidated of humans, they are more resistant to being driven away.

Written spring 2004, as a service learning project for Dr. Gary Coté's Biology 102 class at Radford University.  Copyright Pathways for Radford.

Home | Yesterday | Today | Tomorrow | Contact Us