Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Branta canadensis
Population size
5-6.2 Mln
Life Span
12-26 yrs
TOP SPEED
90 km/h
WEIGHT
2.4-6.5 kg
LENGTH
75-110 cm
WINGSPAN
127-185 cm

The Canada goose is a bird with long black neck and head. The geese have white mark on their beak, near their chin. Another distinctive feature of Canada geese is white U-like band on their rump. The male of a breeding pair is usually bigger. Feet, legs and the beak of Canada goose are black. They have blackish brown tail and blackish rump. The back and scapulars of Canada goose are darker brown. The breast, abdomen and flanks vary from light gray to dark chocolate brown in color, either being mixed with black neck or separated from it by white ring.

Distibution

The Canada goose is a native North American species, being also introduced to the UK, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and the Falkland Islands. These animals can be found at different elevation from alpine to coastal regions. The habitat of Canada geese is open areas with short grass. As a general rule, these animals avoid areas with obstructions such as tall grass, to be able to watch for predators. They live near water bodies such as coastlines, rivers, marshes or ponds. They breed in Canada and northern United States while their migration reaches as far as northern Europe.

Canada Goose habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

They are diurnal, being active during the day. The geese spend a lot of time grazing and foraging. Canada geese forage for food on land as well as in the water. The geese are very social animals, forming large nesting colonies meanwhile making the nests at a certain distance from each other. Pair of nesting geese can either choose to live solitary or to use the same breeding area as other pairs do. At the breeding season, Canada geese form long-term pairs. During this period, males aggressively defend the nesting site and the goslings, not allowing humans and other animals to approach to it. In the autumn, these birds congregate into large flocks, consisting of family groups, to migrate southward to their wintering grounds.

Diet and Nutrition

Canada geese are herbivores (folivores, granivores and algivores). Their usual diet includes grass, leaves, roots, seeds, berries and algae. During the periods when nutrients are needed such as breeding season or rearing of the chicks, Canada goose can also consume mollusks, small fish, aquatic invertebrates, crustaceans and insects.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
April-May, may extend to June in colder climates
INCUBATION PERIOD
28 days
INDEPENDENT AGE
1 year
FEMALE NAME
goose
MALE NAME
gander
BABY NAME
gosling
BABY CARRYING
4-7 eggs

They are monogamous, mating once in a lifetime, usually during the second year of their lives. Normally, the breeding season takes place in April-May, sometimes extending into June in areas with colder climate. When the nesting site is chosen, the female builds the nest and lays 4-7 eggs whereas the male stands guard. Then the female incubates the eggs for about 28 days. As soon as hatched out, the chicks are able to feed, walk, swim and dive. They leave the nest in 1-2 days but stay with their parents for the first year of their lives. The parents help the young to find food, leading the chicks to feeding areas. Depending on the subspecies, chicks of Canada goose are able to fly within 7-9 weeks after hatching out.

Population

Population threats

The major threats to Canada goose population include toxic pesticides and lead poisoning due to swallowing lead shot. Another serious threat is oil and gas exploration in the Arctic regions where these birds breed. On the other hand, they are threatened with habitat loss because of urban and infrastructure development. Although they are hunted for food and sport around North America, this doesn’t affect the overall population of Canada goose.

Population number

The global population is estimated between 5.000.000 and 6.200.000 individuals. The European population is estimated at 1.000-5.000 breeding pairs, which equates to 2.000-10.000 mature individuals. According to the estimate of the year 2000, the population of Canada goose is around 4-5 million individuals only in North America. In the IUCN Red List, Canada goose is classified as a species of Least Concern (LC) with increasing population.

Ecological niche

These birds are prey species for predators of their habitat. Also, they serve as seed dispersers due to feeding on wide variety of plants.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • These birds have monocular vision. Moreover, their excellent eyesight helps them during flight, allowing them to see around 180 degrees both horizontally and vertically.
  • When migrating, they can travel 1000 kilometers distance in one day. Considering that the circumference of the earth is 40008 kilometers, they could travel around the world in about 40 days.
  • A male of Canada goose is called gander while the female – goose. The young are called goslings.
  • A group of Canada goose can be called a “string of geese”, “chevron” as well as “flock”.
  • Goslings of Canada goose start communicating with their parents before hatching out when they are still in the egg.
  • Year after year, these birds nest in the same area, often using the same nest as their parents did.
  • A flock of flying geese has V-like formation. When a member of the flock is injured, others stay with it until the bird dies or is able to rejoin the flock.

References

1. Canada Goose Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_goose
2. Canada Goose on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22679935/0

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