Canada Goose

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Common Name: Canada Goose
Scientific Name: Anas platyrhynchos

Size: 30-43 inches (75-110 cm); Wingspan: 50-73 inches (127-185 cm)

Habitat: North America; endemic 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. It also occasionally migrates to northern Europe, and has been introduced to Britain, New Zealand, and other temperate regions

Their preferred habitat is anywhere near lakes, rivers, ponds, or other small or large bodies of water, and in yards, park lawns, and farm fields.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 5,500,000 to 5,900,000 individuals. Canada Geese are common and increasing in much of North America. The proliferation of lawns, golf courses, and parks offers Canada Geese such reliable habitat that in some areas the birds stay all year round instead of migrating like they used to do. Recently, some communities have had to begin considering some Canada Geese as nuisances (for eating grass or fouling lawns) or even hazards (around airports, where collisions with planes can be very dangerous). Some 2.6 million Canada Geese are harvested by hunters in North America, but this does not seem to affect its numbers.

Diet: Green vegetation and grains. It eats a variety of grasses when on land. It feeds by grasping a blade of grass with the bill, then tearing it with a jerk of the head. The Canada goose also eats beans and grains such as wheat, rice, and corn when they are available. In the water, it feeds from silt at the bottom of the body of water. It also feeds on aquatic plants, such as seaweeds. In urban areas, they are also known to pick food out of garbage bins. It will occasionally eat small insects and fish.

Nesting: Sexes are alike. The black head and neck with a white "chinstrap" help set apart the Canada Goose from other Goose species. It has a light tan to cream breast and brown back.

During the second year of their lives, Canada Geese find a mate. They are monogamous, and most couples stay together all of their lives. If one dies, the other may find a new mate. The female lays from 2–9 eggs with an average of five and both parents protect the nest while the eggs incubate, but the female spends more time at the nest than the male.

Its nest is usually located in an elevated area near water such as streams, lakes, ponds and sometimes on a beaver lodge. Its eggs are laid in a shallow depression lined with plant material and down.

The incubation period, in which the female incubates while the male remains nearby, lasts for 24–28 days after laying. As the annual summer molt also takes place during the breeding season, the adults lose their flight feathers for 20–40 days, regaining flight at about the same time as their goslings start to fly.

As soon as the goslings hatch they are immediately capable of walking, swimming and finding their own food (a diet similar to the adult geese). Parents are often seen leading their goslings in a line, usually with one adult at the front, and the other at the back. While protecting their goslings, parents often violently chase away nearby creatures, from small blackbirds to lone humans that approach, after warning them by giving off a hissing sound and will then attack with bites and slaps of the wings if the threat does not retreat or has seized a gosling.

Cool Facts: Canada Geese tend to be smaller as you move northward; plumage tends to be darker as you move westward.

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 Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin has one of the largest groups of Canada Geese in 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.

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 will 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 body works. Also, other studies show levels of stress hormones like corticosterone rise dramatically in these birds during and after a migration.

Available on Songbird Remix Waterfowl Volume 4: Geese, Loons, Grebes & Coots

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