Physical characteristics: This is a large goose with a solid black neck. The head is also black, but there is a white band running underneath the chin. The Canada goose weighs 4.5 to 14.4 pounds (2 to 6.5 kilograms) and stands 21.7 to 43.3 inches (55 to 110 centimeters) tall. Its bill is black, as are its feet. The plumage (feathers) is various shades of brown. Adults lose their feathers and become flightless for three to four weeks each summer until their feathers regrow.
Geographic range: Found in most of Canada and in the United States.
Habitat: The Canada goose feeds in grassland and open marshes. Like other waterfowl, it requires a permanent body of water in which to live.
Diet: Canada geese eat a variety of grasses by pulling them from the ground with their bills. They also feed on corn, wheat, and rice.
The mostly herbivorous, eating plant material, bird also eats aquatic vegetation.
Behavior and reproduction: Canada geese migrate slowly in a V-shaped formation, and you know they're above by their loud honking. Each formation is comprised of a number of smaller family groups, and if you watch them land, you'll see the families break off into their individual units. This species can be aggressive and will attack if threatened. These geese are vocal, and pairs will "talk" with one another so quickly that it sounds as if all the sound is coming from just one bird. Babies have a particular raspy call they use to summon their parents.
Canada geese mate for life. They build their nests from grasses and other available vegetation and line them with cattail down. Nests are usually near water. Females lay four to seven eggs and incubate them for twenty-five to thirty days. Within one day of hatching, goslings are led to water by their mother. Canada geese parents often gather goslings into groups and look after them communally. Goslings fly for the first time between forty and eighty-six days, and are ready to mate between two and three years. The average lifespan in the wild is fifteen to twenty years.
A group of flying geese is called a gaggle. A group of geese on the ground is called a skein (skayn).
Canada geese and people: More than most anatids, this species is tolerant of humans. While this has endeared the bird to some, it has been a source of irritation for others. Canada geese like to live in habitats such as golf courses, and their presence is of concern to country clubs and the like. Some humans enjoy feeding these geese, while others prefer hunting them.
Conservation status: Canada geese are not threatened. ■
Canada geese mate in pairs for life. These geese fly together during courting, before they mate for the season. (Jack A. Barrie/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)
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