Biology of the Canada Goose
The Canada goose (Branta canadensis) is a large goose with a light brown or gray body and a black neck. Its head is also black but has a broad white chinstrap curving under the chin to the cheeks. There are seven subspecies, and most, on average, weigh around eight or nine pounds. The aptly named giant Canada goose (B. canadensis maxima) can weigh as much as 18 pounds. Males are generally larger than the females.
Canada goose biology makes the goose a very adaptable bird with an extensive range from northern Canada to northern Mexico. It covers the United States from coast to coast. The Great Lakes area is home to a particularly large population of Canada geese. The population of the Canada goose is believed to be anywhere from four to over five million in North America alone.
The Canada goose can also be found in western Europe, where it is an invasive species in countries like France and the United Kingdom. The Canada goose is large, aggressive, and territorial, and it will chase off other waterfowl that get too close to its nesting grounds. Consequently, it keeps some species of native waterfowl from successfully reproducing.
Canada goose biology shows many of the traits associated with an invasive species. For example, it is prolific: A female goose may lay as many as nine eggs. The goslings hatch around four weeks later, and they are precocial. A newly-hatched gosling can walk, swim, and even search for food. They fledge or start to grow their flight feathers when they are between six and nine weeks old. The goslings stay with their parents for about a year and go their own way after returning to their birthplace at the end of the spring migration.
While many predators will eat goose eggs and goslings, an adult Canada goose is large enough and aggressive enough to make most predators think twice. Aside from humans, the only predators that will take on a grown Canada goose are wolves, coyotes, and some of the larger birds of prey. A Canada goose parent will try to chase off anything that gets too near its nest or young; they have even attacked humans.
Young Canada geese will start to seek mates when they are two, and the bond lasts for the birds’ lives. Canada geese in the wild can live for up to 25 years.
The Canada goose is largely herbivorous, but it will also eat insects and small fish. Its wide-ranging diet includes grains, beans, and seaweed. It has also been known to eat food out of trash cans.
Unlike most wild geese, the Canada goose can live in or near suburbs – which likely provide it with all the grass, beans and garbage it could want. While suburbanites might admire the Canada goose’s size and looks, they don’t appreciate the droppings in their lawns or swimming pools. Those droppings can carry diseases like avian influenza, salmonella, and Escherichia coli.
Nor do suburbanites enjoy having the goose eat the grass in their lawns. Since grass is one of their favorite foods, Canada geese will also congregate at parks and golf courses, where they quickly wear out their welcome.
Are there a lot of Canada geese in your area? Call us, and we’ll help you.