Park Sentries: Canada Geese

Cover photo: © Don DeBold, 2017, some rights reserved.

Learn about the Canada goose, a common visitor to California’s parks and fields.

Cover photo: © Don DeBold, 2017, Flickr Photo Album, some rights reserved.

The Canada goose has the most widely-distributed range of any goose in North America.

They are found year-round in parts of the northern United States. Birds that breed closer to the Arctic will migrate south to the United States for the winter. In some parts of California, there are areas where geese are found year-round. For more information on their range, check out this map by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Their migratory v-formations headed north in the spring and south in the fall are widely recognized as symbols of the changing seasons.

Canada geese tend to forage in moist fields and manicured lawns.

There, Canada geese graze on grasses and grains from cultivated plants. Manicured lawns are particularly attractive to Canada geese, as the short vegetation allows them an unobstructed view of the landscape to look out for potential predators.

Canada geese are also known to eat aquatic plants.

Canada geese build their nests near water.

Females select the location, and do most of the work to construct a cup-shaped nest. They lay 2 – 8 eggs, which hatch after around a month of incubation. The hatchlings are covered in yellow down. As precocial hatchlings, they are able to walk, swim, and dive as soon as they leave the nest. The young will stay with their parents for a year, traveling as a family group.

Breeding pairs are monogamous, and have low rates of “divorce” – or splitting up. They form pairs usually during their second year of life.

When birdwatching, it pays to look closely at flocks of Canada geese.

I’ve been delighted during some birding walks to find another species mixed in with flocks of Canada geese. While at Shoreline Regional Park, I was lucky enough to find some greater white-fronted geese foraging with the Canada goose flock I was watching. Greater white-fronted geese are a rarer species in the Bay Area, so it was a treat to be able to watch them.

Canada & Greater White-fronted Geese Logo
Greater white-fronted geese foraging alongside Canada geese at Shoreline Regional Park in Mountain View, Ca.

Cool facts about Canada Geese:

  • Contrary to popular belief, the term “Canadian Goose” is incorrect. The common name of this species is “Canada Goose”.
  • Canada goose populations in urban areas have been increasing since the 1950’s.

Resources to learn more: