Animal Facts: Canada goose

  • Published Aug 12, 2021
  • Updated Aug 12, 2022
  • 344 words
  • 2 minutes
The Canada goose is one of the country's most iconic species that can be found across the provinces. (Photo: David White/Can Geo Photo Club)
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Well-known for their long black necks and white cheeks, the Canada goose is a large wild goose that can be found in several regions across North America. 

Photo: Clifford Dupuis/Can Geo Photo Club
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Fast Facts

Common name: Canada goose

Scientific name: Branta canadensis

Type: Bird

Diet: Herbivore 

Group name: Flock

Average weight: Up to eight kilograms

Average wingspan: 127 to 173 centimetres

COSEWIC Status: No status


Did you know?

Canada geese, who mate for life, nest in the same region their parents did, and often in the same nest every year.

Physical characteristics and behaviour

Although Canada geese are considered easily recognisable for their black heads, white cheek patches and long, black necks, there are actually several different races of Canada geese, meaning geese in one region may look different from in another. Although not all scientists agree on the number of races of Canada geese, most believe there to be 11. 

The most widely known behaviour of Canada geese is their habit of flying in “V” formations when migrating. As each bird flaps its wings, it creates a small updraft, which gives a boost to the bird flying behind it. Down the line, those benefits add up. Migrating geese can reach speeds of more than 100 kilometres per hour when the wind is right. In those conditions they can travel 1,000 kilometres in a day!

The Canada goose is famous for its droppings. A single bird can let go of almost a kilogram a day!


Unlike many other waterfowl species, Canada geese feed mostly on land. In spring and summer they mostly graze on the leaves of grassy plants, but also eat a wide variety of flowers, stems, roots, seeds and berries. During winter, Canada geese often feed in fields on spilled corn, oats, soybeans, and other crops. These birds will feed for as much as 12 hours a day to get the nutrients they need!

Habitat and distribution

Canada geese will settle around almost any type of wetland, from small ponds to large lakes and rivers. They are found in every Canadian province and territory.


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