Canada geese

Identification

Canada geese (Branta canadensis, Figure 1) are a valuable natural resource that provide recreation and enjoyment to bird watchers, hunters, and the general public. The “V” formation of a flock of flying Canada geese is a sign of the changing seasons. Migrating geese do not necessarily cause damage. In this module, we refer mostly to flocks of “resident” or non-migratory geese that inhabit areas throughout the year. 

Figure 1. Canada goose (Branta canadensis).  
Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel. 

Legal Status

All Canada geese, including residents, are protected by federal and state laws and regulations that govern the capture, handling or killing of Canada geese, including disturbance of nests and eggs. Permits are required for most control activities. Contact your state agency for more detailed information. 

Physical Description

Canada geese are black and tan with a large, white patch on the cheek. A male (gander) and female (goose) look similar, but males are slightly larger. Canada geese are 22 to 48 inches tall and weigh up to 24 pounds.  

Species Range

Figure 2. Distribution of the Canada goose in North America. Image by Stephen M. Vantassel. 

Tracks and Signs

Tracks are easy to find in soft soils or sand (Figure 3). The droppings of Canada geese usually are tubular. Droppings are green when geese are eating grasses (Figure 4).

Canada geese communicate through body language, calls, and honking.  

  

Figure 3. Track of a Canada goose. Image by Dee Ebbeka 
Figure 3. Fresh dropping of a Canada goose.  
Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel.