Order: Anseriformes - screamers, ducks, geese and swans
Family: Anatidae - ducks, geese and swans
Scientific Name: Branta canadensis
Description: A brownish body (25-43 inches and 5-10 pounds) with a black head, long black neck and white chin strap characterize the coloring of this goose. Larger species produce a rich, musical honking, while smaller species have a high pitched cackling. Body size decreases northward with the smallest species living in the high Arctic coastal tundra.
Range: Alaska, Canada, northern US; winters in Mexico; a population has been introduced to the UK
Habitat: Canada Geese are migratory, so their habitat changes seasonally from arctic tundra to wetlands of the east coast of the US to the plains of the Midwest US. They are commonly found on ponds, marshes, farmland and in park areas.
Reproduction: The Canada Goose is monogamous for life. They nest near water in a depression lined with down. They will also use artificial nest structures provided for them on ponds. The female lays 4-9 eggs and incubates for 28-30 days while the gander keeps guard. Both parents cooperate to raise the young. If a mate dies, the surviving member of the pair may choose another mate. Young always return to their natal nesting area when they are ready to breed. This trait has been used to establish new populations of Canada Geese. Pinioned adult birds are moved to a new location. Any young hatched there will return in several years to reproduce, establishing a new population.
Diet in the Wild: grasses, seeds, and aquatic plants
Diet in the Zoo: waterfowl maintenance (50% layer and 50% scratch grain)
General Information: The Canada Goose has a keen sense of sight and hearing. These senses are utilized while feeding in large flocks where a sentinel is posted to watch for danger. If threatened, to avoid detection they lie flat and motionless with their necks outstretched .
Very rarely will one see a single goose. They travel in mated pairs or in flocks. In flight, when the lead goose in the V becomes fatigued, it falls to the back of the V and allows another to take the lead. The effectiveness of this formation and cooperation has resulted in Canada Geese being able to fly at speeds up to 60 mph during migration. In addition, if one goose falls from the V formation, two others will fall back to join it, and will stay with it until it can travel again, or until it dies.
There are 10 (some say 11) recognized subspecies of the Canada Goose. In the Great Plains the subspecies known as the giant Canada Goose is considered native. It is unique because it is a non-migratory subspecies, at least in comparison to the other subspecies. If the winter is mild, the giant may not leave its nesting area at all.
Conservation Status: Some Canada Goose subspecies were in trouble until about the 1960’s, but due to conservation efforts they are now very abundant.
Predators: Egg predators include raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, dogs, and gulls. Young goslings may be preyed upon by snapping turtles, gulls, owls, and coyotes.
Docent Handbook from Salisbury Zoological Garden