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Canada Goose

Branta canadensis

Length: 24 to 45 inches Wingspan: 60 to 75 inches Seasonality: All Seasons
ID Keys: Distinctive, with black head and neck and white chin-strap

Canada Goose - Branta canadensisCanada Geese are a species that has adapted well to human presence, becoming a common resident of city parks and water bodies. Canada geese do migrate, but might be found wherever open water exists in the winter.  There's a huge disparity in size between the smallest and largest races of Canada Geese.  The smallest of what were once considered a small race of Canada Goose is now considered its own species, the Cackling Goose.


Lakes, ponds, larger wetlands, marshes, city parks and ponds.  Often feeds in farm fields, especially in winter.


Primarily plant material such as grasses, aquatic plants, seeds, and berries.  Can rely quite heavily on waste grain during winter months.  Also eats some insects, small fish, and crustaceans. 


 Forages both on land and on water.  In water, swims on the surface, submerging its head and neck to obtain food.  Walks on land while foraging, and has learned to use agricultural fields for foraging.


Late March through late May.  The nest of a Canada Goose is large bowl-shaped structure of grasses, sedges, sticks, and moss, lined with down.  It may be placed in a variety of locations depending on setting.  The female usually lays between 4 and 7 eggs, and she incubates them.  The young only stay in the nest for a day or two after hatching before being led into the water by the parents.  The young feed themselves, but the parents tend them and vigorously protect them.  The young fledge after about 8 weeks.


A familiar honking sound, which may very in pitch and tone.


Birds summering in Canada migrate south, but populations in the U.S. may or may not migrate depending on local circumstance.  They will overwinter if open water is available. In South Dakota, they are found all year around, although they are clearly less numerous in the heart of winter. However, very large numbers may congregate in areas of open water.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click to access an interactive eBird map of Canada Goose sightings

Similar Species:

Cackling Goose 1 - Branta hutchinsii Cackling Goose 2 - Branta hutchinsii Brant - Branta bernicla Brant - Branta bernicla
Cackling Goose Cackling Goose Brant Brant

Conservation Status:

Widespread and very common.  Numbers of Canada Geese today are undoubtedly much higher than they were prior to European settlement of North America, as they've adapted extremely well to a human presence, learning to take advantage of agricultural fields, and open water in winter as a result of human activity (near river reservoir dams, urban parks, warm water discharge from power plants, etc.).  The IUCN lists the Canada Goose as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

April 10th, 2011 - Near Tea in Lincoln County, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Canada Goose photos.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the range map for a higher-resolution view
Canada Goose - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common summer resident throughout most of the state.  Common in winter as well provided open water is nearby.

Additional Canada Goose Photos
 Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Canada Goose 1 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 2 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 3 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 4 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 5 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 6 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 7 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 8 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 9 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 10 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 11 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 12 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 13 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 14 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 15 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 16 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 17 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 18 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 19 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 20 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 21 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 22 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 23 - Branta canadensisCanada Goose 24 - Branta canadensis