Magnify and Expand

Canada Goose


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.


Latin: Branta canadensis

Average length: M 25-45 inches

Average weight: M 3-13 lbs., F 3-11 lbs.


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 Canada goose at 33 years currently holding the 2nd oldest longevity record for all North American waterfowl.

Canada Goose Distribution

Food Habits

Canada geese are herbivores, relying on grasses, sedges, berries, and seeds for their diet. When agricultural grains are available on the landscape, Canada geese will preferentially feed on them. Some subspecies are adapted to urban environments and will eat domesticated grasses throughout the year.


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.

Migration 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.