This large bodied goose is both adaptable and social having been imported into Europe and Asia from its native lands in North America. A monogamous bird which pairs for life, it is considered a pest in some areas as being both messy and aggressive, particularly within urban environments.
Family:Ducks, geese and swans
90cm to 110cm
150cm to 180cm
4.3g to 5g
Adult Canada Geese of both sexes have a long black neck, head and large, wide bill, with a prominent broad white ‘chinstrap’ extending from the base of the lower mandible, upwards under the chin ending just below the crown. The breast is a pale grey morphing to white across the belly and under tail, whilst the flanks are a darker brownish grey. The undertail coverts are white. The upperparts are predominantly a browny grey with a black rump and uppertail, contrasting with white upper tail coverts. The legs and feet are black and the irides a dark brown. Adult males are generally larger than females. Juveniles are similar in markings and patternation to adult birds.
A pair of Canada Geese
The call of the Canada goose is a loud, low pitched honk, often repeated, rather similar to an old fashioned rubber bulbed car horn.
Canada Goose call (flight call)
Susanne Kuijpers, XC642222. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/642222.
Canada Goose searching for food
The Canada goose is a herbivore, often seen in large groups on low lying open grassland close to fresh water, grazing on grasses and green vegetation. During winter months their diet will often vary to include agricultural grains, seeds and berries. In urban and suburban areas they will also scavenge from waste bins and refuse tips.
Canada Geese in flight
The Canada goose is found predominantly in the Northern Hemisphere with vast numbers across North America and Western Europe in particular. However, populations have also been introduced to New Zealand, the Falkland Islands, Argentina and Chile. Traditionally their breeding grounds were in the arctic and sub-arctic regions and whilst the majority of North America geese still breed mainly in Alaska and Canada, breeding populations can now be found throughout Canada and continental USA. Those birds resident within Western Europe breed from Greenland across Scandinavia and the United Kingdom, through Benelux countries into Germany, France, Ukraine and across Russia to the Pacific coast at Kamchatka. Many Canada goose populations have lost their migratory instinct or move relatively short distances south of their breeding grounds and this is particularly noticeable within Western Europe, whilst within North America, those birds from the northern most breeding ranges will migrate south with many birds overwintering in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and across the border into Mexico.
A family of Canada Geese
There are seven different sub-species of the Canada goose, all of which can be found within North America. The single variant introduced into Europe and Japan is the Branta canadensis canadensis which, within North America, is mainly confined to Canada. Branta canadensis maxima (Giant Canada Goose) is considered the heaviest of the subspecies with the greatest wingspan and is a resident of the American Midwest. This variant was introduced to New Zealand in 1905, where it is now considered a pest.
Nesting Canada Goose
Although there are minor size and colour differences between the sub-species, all variants of Canada goose are easily identifiable by their shape, size and patternation. Within North America they may be confused with a similar coloured bird, the Cackling Goose. However, this latter species of goose is considerably smaller and stocky with a short neck. The Canada goose is never far away from freshwater and can be found in public parks, reservoirs, lakes, marshes, rivers, flooded gravel pits, in fact anywhere with wide open grasslands or arable crops, coastal plains and even forests. It is a gregarious, noisy bird found in large flocks and often seen flying in V formations honking loudly as they pass overhead.
Flock of Canada Geese
The breeding season lasts from March through to June, dependent upon location. A scrape in the ground, often lined with leaf mould, reeds and down, is constructed as a nest, frequently on small islands to avoid predation. Birds are monogamous and will mate from the age of two years. One clutch averaging 5 – 6 cream coloured eggs is laid and incubated by the female for between twenty six to thirty two days. The chicks, also known as goslings, are able to feed, swim and dive within twenty four hours of hatching. Fledging occurs between six to eight weeks after hatching and in general the young will remain with their parents for up to a year.
Canada Goose nest
Adult with goslings
Life expectancy is between twenty to twenty five years although captive birds may survive considerably longer.
For more information on the lifespan of a Canada Goose, check out this guide.
The Eurasian wigeon is a medium dabbling duck that commonly breeds across northern Europe, and winters further south, including in the British Isles and occasionally in North America. Rare vagrant breeding pairs can be found in the United States, and small breeding grounds have also been established in northern England and Scotland.
This large bird arrives on our shores from Iceland to overwinter in late September, returning northwards to breed from mid March onwards.
Larger than the Common Scoter this elegant European diving duck spends much of its time at sea and is often seen in company with mixed flocks resting on the water’s surface far out from land.
Tundra Bean Goose
The tundra bean goose is the most common species of bean goose, and breeds on Russian tundra landscapes. Winters are spent grazing on open fields, marshes and agricultural land in western and central Europe and East Asia.
The Tufted Duck is the UK’s most common diving duck and a familiar sight on lakes and ponds across the country. Known for their long, hair-like tufts, these small waterfowl are fairly easy to identify but may be confused with other ducks from the Aythya genus.
Fast and erratic in flight, the Teal is the United Kingdom’s smallest wildfowl species. Despite occurring year-round in low numbers, birdwatchers are most likely to spot these tiny ducks in the winter when large numbers arrive from abroad.
One of seven American goose species, the Snow Goose is a noisy migrant that visits the Lower 48 states each winter. These beautiful birds have increased dramatically since the second half of the 20th century.
Despite being only a rare winter visitor to the British Isles, the Smew is one of the countrys most unmistakable and easily identified duck species. Breeding across Central Asia and returning to Western Europe during winter months, smews begin to turn up on inland lakes as well as in coastal regions from November onwards.
One look at the bill of a northern shoveler should be enough to provide you with an accurate species identification: their flattened shovel-like bills are unique among waterfowl and allow them to feed on tiny plankton by sweeping their heads across the water’s surface.
A large colourful duck, often found in coastal areas, the shelduck, is an established breeding waterbird in the UK. British wetlands are also a major wintering ground for the species, hosting up to 30 percent of Europe’s shelduck population each autumn.
A medium-sized diving duck, the greater scaup is known simply as the scaup in Europe, and locally as the ‘bluebill’ in North America. Only a handful of scaup breed in the UK, making it the rarest breeding duck in the British Isles.
A striking and fascinating little diving duck with an unusual courtship display, the Ruddy Duck is a widespread migrant in North America.
During the winter the population of this rare resident breeding duck increases by 55 times to that of the summer, with the influx of many thousands of others overwintering, having arrived from Russia and Eastern Europe.
Although the pink-footed goose does not breed in Britain, it is a common winter visitor, with over half a million migrating individuals arriving each autumn from breeding grounds in Iceland, Greenland and Norway’s Svalbard peninsula.
One of the world’s heaviest flying birds, and one of the most beautiful too, the Mute Swan is a majestic waterfowl with a mean reputation.
A native of Japan and China, the mandarin duck was first introduced into the UK in the 18th century and started populations in the wild in the 1930’s following escapes from captivity. The UK population is estimated to be in the region of 7,000 birds.
Instantly recognizable, the Mallard is a medium-sized dabbling duck that is familiar to people all over the world. These adaptable waterfowl are the ancestor of the modern domestic duck and are found everywhere from remote wilderness lakes to suburban backyards.
The Greylag goose is the largest grey goose from the Anser genus of the Anatidae family of waterbirds. A stout, robust and heavyweight bird, the Greylag goose is the closest wild relative and ancestor to the domestic goose. Greylag geese are distributed across much of Europe and Asia, extending into eastern Russia and China. Most populations migrate, but some are sedentary, including in much of Northern Europe.
Widespread throughout the northern hemisphere, the common merganser is the largest of the saw billed fish eating ducks. There are three sub-species with the Eurasian variant frequently known as the Goosander.
The Gargeney is a dabbling duck, slightly smaller than a mallard, and considered a rare breeder in the UK, with just over 100 pairs recorded. A fully migratory species, all garganeys spend winters in southern Africa, leaving breeding grounds as early as July, so your window for spotting one on British waters is only a very brief one.
The Gadwall is a widely distributed dabbling duck of the Anatidae family that breeds in the Northern Hemisphere. This hardy duck breeds as far north as Siberia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and coastal Alaska and is found across both the Americas, Europe, and Asia.
The common eider (Somateria mollissima) is a large and widespread sea duck that is perhaps best known for its valuable insulating down feathers.
Regarded as being sacred by early Egyptians, this native goose of the African continent was introduced into Europe and elsewhere as an ornamental wildfowl species in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century.
The word scoter is often used to define northern sea ducks. There are six different species of scoter, all of which are monotypic and three of which are confined to North America. The Common Scoter like the Velvet Scoter can only be found in Europe and Asia whilst the Stejneger’s Scoter is a native of Asia alone.
A small goose species with a short, stubby bill, the brent goose (or brant, as it is known in North America), breeds in the high Arctic regions of Canada, Greenland, Siberian Russia and northern Europe’s Arctic islands. Brant spend winters along North America’s Pacific coast, part of the east coast of the US, and in north-western Europe, from the British Isles to Denmark.
Winter visitors to the UK, formerly considered a full species, but now considered a sub-species of the Tundra Swan.
Brighten up your inbox with our exclusive newsletter, enjoyed by thousands of people from around the world.
© 2023 - Birdfact. All rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced without our written permission.