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Kanadagans Branta canadensis

Giant Canada goose in Edmonton, Alberta

The Canada goose (Branta canadensis) is a large wild goose species with a black head and neck, white patches on the face, and a brown body. Native to arctic and temperate regions of North America, its migration occasionally reaches northern Europe. It has been introduced to the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands. Like most geese, the Canada goose is primarily herbivorous and normally migratory; it tends to be found on or close to fresh water.

Extremely successful at living in human-altered areas, Canada geese have proven able to establish breeding colonies in urban and cultivated areas, which provide food and few natural predators, and are well known as a common park species. Their success has led to them often being considered a pest species because of their depredation of crops and issues with their noise, droppings, aggressive territorial behavior, and habit of begging for food, especially in their introduced range. Canada geese are also among the most commonly hunted waterfowl in North America.

Distribution and Habitat Edit

This species is native to North America. It breeds in Canada and the northern United States in a variety of habitats. The Great Lakes region maintains a very large population of Canada geese. Canada geese occur year-round in the southern part of their breeding range, including most of the eastern seaboard and the Pacific coast. Between California and South Carolina in the southern United States and northern Mexico, Canada geese are primarily present as migrants from further north during the winter.

By the early 20th century, overhunting and loss of habitat in the late 19th century and early 20th century had resulted in a serious decline in the numbers of this bird in its native range. The giant Canada goose subspecies was believed to be extinct in the 1950s until, in 1962, a small flock was discovered wintering in Rochester, Minnesota, by Harold Hanson of the Illinois Natural History Survey. In 1964, the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center was built near Jamestown. Its first director, Harvey K. Nelson, talked Forrest Lee into leaving Minnesota to head the center’s Canada goose production and restoration program. Forrest soon had 64 pens with 64 breeding pairs of screened, high-quality birds. The project involved private, state, and federal resources and relied on the expertise and cooperation of many individuals. By the end of 1981, more than 6,000 giant Canada geese had been released at 83 sites in 26 counties in North Dakota. With improved game laws and habitat recreation and preservation programs, their populations have recovered in most of their range, although some local populations, especially of the subspecies B. c. occidentalis, may still be declining.

In recent years, Canada goose populations in some areas have grown substantially, so much so that many consider them pests for their droppings, bacteria in their droppings, noise, and confrontational behavior. This problem is partially due to the removal of natural predators and an abundance of safe, man-made bodies of water near food sources, such as those found on golf courses, in public parks and beaches, and in planned communities. Due in part to the interbreeding of various migratory subspecies with the introduced nonmigratory giant subspecies, Canada geese are frequently a year-around feature of such urban environments.

Contrary to its normal migration routine, large flocks of Canada geese have established permanent residence in Esquimalt, British Columbia, on Chesapeake Bay, in Virginia's James River regions, and in the Triangle area of North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill), and nearby Hillsborough. Some Canada geese have taken up permanent residence as far south as Florida, in places such as retention ponds in apartment complexes. Large resident populations of Canada geese are also present in much of the San Francisco Bay area in Northern California. In 2015, the Ohio population of Canada geese was reported as roughly 130,000, with the number likely to continue increasing. Many of the geese, previously migratory, reportedly had become native, remaining in the state even in the summer. The increase was attributed to a lack of natural predators, an abundance of water, and plentiful grass in manicured lawns in urban areas. Canada geese were eliminated in Ohio following the American Civil War, but were reintroduced in 1956 with 10 pairs. The population was estimated at 18,000 in 1979. The geese are considered protected, though a hunting season is allowed from September 1–15, with a daily bag limit of five. The lifespan in the wild of geese that survive to adulthood ranges from 10 to 24 years.

Migration Edit

Canada geese are known for their seasonal migrations. Most Canada geese have staging or resting areas where they join up with others. Their autumn migration can be seen from September to the beginning of November. The early migrants have a tendency to spend less time at rest stops and go through the migration much faster. The later birds usually spend more time at rest stops. Some geese return to the same nesting ground year after year and lay eggs with their mate, raising them in the same way each year. This is recorded from the many tagged geese which frequent the East Coast.

Canada geese fly in a distinctive V-shaped flight formation, with an altitude of 1 km (3,000 feet) for migration flight. The maximum flight ceiling of Canada geese is unknown, but they have been reported at 9 km (29,000 feet).

Flying in the V formation has been the subject of study by researchers. The front position is rotated since flying in front consumes the most energy. Canada geese leave the winter grounds more quickly than the summer grounds. Elevated thyroid hormones, such as T3 and T4, have been measured in geese just after a big migration. This is believed because of the long days of flying in migration the thyroid gland sends out more T4 which help the body cope with the longer journey. The increased T4 levels are also associated with increased muscle mass (hypertrophy) of the breast muscle, also because of the longer time spent flying. It is believed that the body sends out more T4 to help the goose's body with this long task by speeding up the metabolism and temperature at which the muscles work. Also, other studies show levels of stress hormones such as corticosterone rise dramatically in these birds during and after a migration.

Predators Edit

Known predators of eggs and goslings include coyotes, Arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus), northern raccoons (Procyon lotor), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), large gulls (Larus species), common ravens (Corvus corax), American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos), carrion crows (in Europe, Corvus corone) and both brown (Ursus arctos) and American black bears (Ursus americanus).

Once they reach adulthood, due to their large size and often aggressive behavior, Canada geese are rarely preyed on, although prior injury may make them more vulnerable to natural predators. Beyond humans, adults can be taken by coyotes and gray wolves (Canis lupus). Avian predators known to kill adults, as well as young geese, include snowy owls (Bubo scandiacus), golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) and bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and, though rarely on large adult geese, great horned owls (Bubo virginianus), peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus), and gyrfalcons (Falco rusticolus). Adults are quite vigorous at displacing potential predators from the nest site, with predator prevention usually falling to the larger male of the pair. Males usually attempt to draw attention of approaching predators and toll (mob terrestrial predators without physical contact) often in accompaniment with males of other goose species. Eagles of both species frequently cause geese to fly off en masse from some distance, though in other instances, geese may seem unconcerned at perched bald eagles nearby, seemingly only reacting if the eagle is displaying active hunting behavior. Canada geese are quite wary of humans where they are regularly harvested, but can otherwise become habituated to fearlessness towards humans, especially where they are fed by them.

Gallery Edit

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