Flying to the South

Flying to the South

Canada Goose ( Branta canadensis )
also incorrectly known as the “Canada Goose”
Species Code: BRCA

Description: The Canada goose is well known for flying in a distinctive V formation, its strong “honk” and unmistakable appearance. A Canada goose can reach 14 kilos and can have a wing span of up to 5 feet.

Males and females have very similar plumage: the head and neck are black, with a strong white patch on the cheeks. The body is gray-brown in color and the feathers under the tail are

Calls: The call is a series of loud “honks” when flying.


 Range / Habitat: The most familiar and widespread goose in North America, the Canada goose can be found in all kinds of water across the continent, from the tundra to the Gulf Coast. Some populations have become residents in urban areas, and are now conflicting with people.

This species is locally common in the state lowlands in wetlands and watercourses, cities, and agricultural areas (except the extensive dryland fields of eastern Washington).

Their habitat preference includes ponds, lakes, rivers, crops, fresh and saltwater lagoons.

Click the distribution map for more information about the distribution of the Canada goose in Washington

Diet: The Canada Goose is in favor of aquatic plants, small aquatic animals, grass and grains.

Nesting: The nest is a large mound of vegetation like grass and “cattails” stems filled with tender feathers. It is usually in plain view of the water. 4-7 white eggs constitute a typical clutch and incubation is carried out exclusively by the female. The goose (man) jealously guards the nest and attack any intruder. Incubation lasts 25 to 30 days and the chicks are brought to the water within one day after hatching. The chicks dry with the parents until the following spring.


Behavior: The goose is a fierce defender of its mate and children, and will take on any suspected enemy, even one as large as an elk. Paired couples can be together for up to 20 years.

Migration: Geese migrate to places where it is warmer and where food is available. Canada geese migrate in large groups in the well-known V formation.

Scientists believe that the reason these birds fly in V formation is due to what is known as the “redaction effect.” Basically this helps birds conserve their energy during long distance flights. The leader up front divides the air stream (and at the same time uses the most amount of energy). When he gets tired, he moves to the back and then another goose takes control of the V formation at the V point. Goose takes over the lead spot.

Migratory birds usually follow the same path every year. These routes are called migration routes or routes. The migratory routes used by the Canada goose are: the Atlantic migratory route (along the east coast of North America), the Mississippi migratory route (the name of the river), the central migratory route (along the of the Rocky Mountains) and the Pacific route (west of the Rocky Mountains).

Some migratory populations of the Canada goose do not go as far south in the winter as before. This northward shift range has been attributed to changes in agricultural practices that makes grain residues more available in the fall and winter, as well as changes in hunting pressure and changes in climate.

Did you know?

  • The female is called a “goose” and the male is a “gander”. Youngsters are known as gosling chicks.
  • They form flocks to fly south for the winter
  • The Canada goose has webbed feet for swimming.
  • A group of geese has many collective names, including a “flock”, “Chevron” and “chain” of geese.

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