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Canada Goose

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Latin: Branta canadensis
Average length: M 25-45 inches
Average weight: M 3-13 lbs., F 3-11 lbs.

Description: Both sexes of Canada geese have a black head and neck except for broad white cheek patches extending from the throat to the rear of the eye. The female of a breeding pair is often smaller. The breast, abdomen and flanks range in coloring from a light gray to a dark chocolate brown, either blending into the black neck or being separated from it by a white collar. The back and scapulars are darker brown, the rump is blackish and the tail is blackish-brown with a U-shaped white band on the rump. The bill, legs and feet are black. Most subspecies are uniformly large and pale and exhibit the characteristic "honking" call.

There are 7 recognized subspecies of Canada geese: Atlantic, Hudson Bay or Interior, Giant, Moffitt's or Great Basin, Lesser, Dusky and Vancouver. In general, the subspecies nesting farther north are smaller in size and darker in color to the west. The Giant Canada goose is the largest goose in the world, with some individuals weighing more than 20 pounds. They can also be long-lived, with a banded Giant Canada goose at 30 years and 4 months currently holding the longevity record for waterfowl. David Sibley has developed an informative webpage that can assist in subspecies identification for Canada geese. Also, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has a helpful field guide (PDF) to identify Cackling and Canada geese.


Breeding: Canada geese nest across inland North America and in more southerly habitats than cackling geese. Canada geese exhibit very strong family and pair bonds, and tend to return to their natal homes to nest. Female Canada geese lay a range of 2-8 eggs with an incubation period of 25-28 days.


Migrating and Wintering: Canada geese are herbivorous, feeding on grasses, sedges, waste grain and berries. In coastal areas of North America, grain-producing agricultural lands adjacent to estuarine or saltwater marshes with bulrush and cordgrass provide ideal winter habitat. In the mid-continent United States, refuges with freshwater marshes and abundant food crops attract Canada geese.

See the table below for breeding and wintering distributions of Canada geese:


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
                        

Subspecies

                         
                        

Breeding

                         
                        

Wintering

                         
                        

Atlantic

                         
                        

Newfoundland, Labrador and QC

                         
                        

New England to SC; largest concentrations in Delmarva Peninsula

                         
                        

Hudson Bay or Interior

                         
                        

Akimiski Island; eastern SK to northern ON; Hudson Bay lowlands; southern James Bay

                         
                        

Southern ON; MB, ND, SD, MN, MI, KS, TX, WI, IL, MO, MS, AL, GA and SC

                         
                        

Giant

                         
                        

Akimiski Island, SK to northern ON, Hudson Bay lowlands, southern James Bay, eastern MT and WY, CO

                         
                        

Southern ON, SK, MB, Dakotas through Great Lakes states and central and southeastern United States

                         
                        

Moffitt's or Great Basin

                         
                        

Akimiski Island; SK to northern ON; southern AB; Hudson Bay lowlands; southern James Bay; eastern WY; inter-mountain regions of UT, ID, NV, WY, and CO; MT

                         
                        

Southern ON; SK, MB, ND, SD, MN, MI, KS, NM, TX, WI, IL, MO, MS, AL, GA, and SC; central and southern CA; AZ, NV, UT, ID, and MT

                         
                        

Lesser

                         
                        

Baffin, Southampton, Victoria, Jenny Lind, and King William Islands; parts of the Hudson Bay coast and Queen Maud Gulf; northern AB

                         
                        

Southeast CO, OK, TX, northeastern Mexico

                         
                        

Dusky

                         
                        

Copper River Delta of southeastern AK

                         
                        

Willamette and Lower Columbia River Valleys of OR and WA

                         
                        

Vancouver

                         
                        

Southeast AK and BC coast

                         
                        

Southeast AK and BC coast; OR, WA

                         

Population: In general, populations of Canada geese are currently more stable than in previous decades. Nearly extirpated in the early 1900s, Giant Canada goose populations have become problematic in some areas due to their elevated numbers. Mississippi Flyway Giant Canada goose population estimates have increased an average of 3 percent a year from 1998 to 2007, when it was estimated at 1.64 million birds, a 5-percent decrease from 2006. With resident Canada goose estimates now over 3 million nationwide, several states have established early Canada goose seasons that focus solely on reducing populations of resident Canada geese. In contrast, the Dusky Canada goose population remains at relatively low numbers, with 2007 breeding population counts estimated at 10,000 birds. Breeding population estimates in 2007 for Atlantic Canada geese were 1.38 million birds, while the Hudson Bay population was estimated to be 966,500 birds. The remaining subspecies combined accounted for more than 2.7 million additional geese in the 2007 flight.

From a harvest management perspective, Canada geese are usually included in season lengths and bag limits with other white-cheeked geese. Hunters should be sure to check specific state regulations for hunting restrictions.


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