Canada goose are large majestic birds. This water bird, weighing up to twenty-four pounds and twenty-two to forty-eight inches in length, is probably the most populated water bird in North America.
The male and female look very similar and the only way to visually tell them apart is by their size. The male is slightly larger than his mate.
With a wing span of greater than six feet, they can fly very fast. Cruising speeds are about thirty miles per hours, speed during migration is about forty miles per hour, and if they are in a hurry to get somewhere, they can fly as fast as sixty miles per hour.
They fly in a very identifiable v-shaped formation, sometimes for thousands of miles at one time. During migration they fly during the night and day.
Their migration routes never vary. They use the same route year after year, the young learning the route from their parents. In the spring they will go back to the spot where they were born.
Canada goose eat plants, marsh grasses, berries, salt grasses, clover, cattails, pond weeds, and in the fall will forage in corn fields for kernels of corn that were missed at harvest.
In the spring when the Canada goose arrive at the site where they will build their nests, the yearlings leave their parents. It will be another two years before these young birds mate and produce young of their own.
Nests are built on the ground near water. The female of the species will build the nest using grass, twigs, leaves, and moss. She also chooses the site of the nest, picking a spot where when she's sitting on the nest she has a good view of the surrounding area. This is so she can spot any predators approaching the nest.
Sometimes instead of building a new nest, she will use a nest that was built the previous year by an owl, osprey, hawk, or heron.
While the male Canada goose doesn't sit on the nest to keep the eggs warm, he will stay close by to help protect the nest from intruders. If he senses danger he will spread his wings and hiss in an effort to scare off any potential predator.
The cream-colored eggs are laid in March or April and hatch twenty-five to thirty days later. Within twenty-four hours of hatching the goslings (baby goose) are swimming in the water.
If there are several families of goose living in the same area, they will get together to form a creche and as a group take care of the goslings.
During incubation the adults molt (lose their flight feathers) and aren't able to fly. The feathers grow back in plenty of time for fall migration. When they get their flight feathers back the parents will teach their young to fly.
Canada goose use both body language and honking sounds to communicate with each other. Ten different sounds have been identified.
Since the adults are large and able to defend themselves, they don't have many natural enemies. The goslings are another story. Snapping turtles, owls, and hawks find the goslings make for good eating. Raccoons and bears will hunt for nests and make a meal of unhatched eggs.
These goose mate for life and are very devoted to each other. If one is injured the other will stay by its side, even if the flock flies to another destination. It's not known for certain if when a goose loses his mate he picks another mate.
Because of the large population of goose they will sometimes invade public places such as parks and golf courses to find food and shelter.
Sometimes Canada goose can make pests of themselves. If living near public swimming places their feces, which contain e-coli, can pollute the water and make the water unsuitable for swimming. Communities will try to chase the goose away using noise makers so this doesn't occur. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Communities will also discourage people from feeding the goose and fine those who do so.
Canada goose are a beautiful and proud bird. If you come across a flock of them, enjoy them from a distance and don't disturb their habitat.