One of the most familiar sights throughout the Midwest are the Canada Geese (Branta canadensis). They are native to North America and easily the most recognized of all water fowl. Distinctive of the species is the black head and the white chin. They are quite large with a wingspan up to 6 feet and may weigh up to 12 pounds. Another species of goose called the Giant Canada Goose was nearly extinct at the turn of the 20th century. A small population was found in Minnesota and through conservation practices they have made a come back in most of the original range. This species is very large, in fact they are the largest goose Worldwide. They may weigh up to 24 pounds and they are capable of living up to 24 years. Average would be anywhere from 10-24 years.
The Canada Goose will breed in Canada and the Northern most states in the United States. In recent years they are moving their breeding territory further south and it is very common for them to mate and raise goslings in Missouri. Canada Geese begin breeding at age two and will remain with the same mate throughout their life. If one is killed or dies of natural causes the other may seek a new mate. They build nests near the edges of water sources like lakes, and ponds. The female will lay 3 to 8 eggs that are protected by both parents. The female will spend more time on or near the nest than the male, but rest assured he won't be far away. Nothing is more protective or easily angered than a goose guarding eggs or babies. These large birds can inflict a painful bite if disturbed. Geese face many predators that are bent on feasting upon their eggs or young, these include raccoons, foxes, mink, ravens, gulls, crows and bears. As adults they are rarely preyed upon, but they can be killed and eaten by coyotes, wolves, owls, foxes and eagles.
In many parts of their range they are becoming a pest. They occur in such large numbers that the noise alone can drive some people mad, they leave their droppings everywhere and many times these droppings can carry bacteria, and they can be highly confrontational. Employing scare tactics to make your place undesirable to them will often times encourage them to leave your area. Extended hunting seasons have also helped. If not, relocation practices may need to be implemented. Man is the creation of his own problems in many cases, and in this case it is no different. With the addition of many man-made water sources such a golf course waterways and farm ponds, beaches, large goldfish ponds and large community neighborhoods with decorative recreational water sources. This has encouraged these large birds to come pay a visit. Often times they like what they find and they invite their friends to join them, and before you know it you have 100's of these lovely birds residing at your local pond.
Canada Geese are migratory, but in much of their range they have forgone this migratory behavior and taken up residence. With all their needs met, there is no reason to move on out of the area. They are primarily an herbivore, and eat forbes, grains and grasses. Although occasionally they will feed on small fish and insects.
While they are considered to be a pest in parts of their range, especially when they take up residence in your neighborhood, they are truly a spectacular bird to watch. They are protective, loving parents. Committed partners, and graceful fliers and beautiful in appearance. The unmistakable "V" formation in the evening sky as it crosses the colorful horizon evokes thoughts of fall, with all its sights and sounds. on the return trip, I can't resist standing and watching as a flock of these large noisy birds travel on their northward journey to breeding grounds in the spring.