The Canada goose is one of the most visible and well-known waterfowl. In some parts of the United States, they have become a nuisance species because of large numbers of geese congregating in city parks and golf courses. They are highly adaptable to human presence. Their honking can be heard before being sighted in a V-formation, confirming the change in seasons. The Canada goose has a brown-gray body with a long black neck, black head and black bill. The males and females are similar in appearance. They have white throat patches that extend to the cheeks with a brown-white breast and belly. They also exhibit a white under tail. Weights can range from eight to13 pounds. Adult males are somewhat larger than adult females. They are the largest of the wild geese but their size diminishes as you travel northward. Length is 22 to 40 inches.
Range: This goose lives throughout North America. While many geese have become year-round residents in Colorado, Canada geese that do migrate through the state can fly as far north as Alaska and Canada in the summer, and as far south as Texas, southern California and sometimes parts of Mexico in the winter.
Habitat: Canada geese inhabit lakes, bays, rivers and marshes. Some populations have become domesticated to local city parks and reservoirs. In urban areas, traditional landscaping for lawns and parks, with expansive areas of bluegrass lawn and numerous ponds and lakes, creates ideal conditions for resting, molting, brood rearing and foraging.
Diet: In fields, their diet consists of fallen grain. In marshes, they feed on wild rice, sedges, other aquatic plants, insects, larvae, crustaceans and small mollusks. Their feeding habits are very regular and they are known to return day after day to the same location if they are not disturbed. On the water, they practice the same habits as surface-feeding ducks. Canada geese will feed on newly sprouted lawns and established grass in urban areas.
Reproduction: The goose builds the nest and she adds down from her body when the eggs are laid. Nests are built on the ground near water or in tubs placed on water. Breeding season begins in early April, when the pair seeks out a spot for the hen to lay her eggs. A goose lays five to six eggs and incubation lasts from 24 to 30 days, with the goose incubating alone and the gander standing guard nearby. Both parents care for the goslings and the family remains together during migration and through the winter. Geese are often aggressive and protective of their young, and may harass or scare people and pets that approach nesting areas.
For more information, see the Natural Diversity Information Source species profile.
From the Frequently Asked Questions pages:
How do I keep Canada geese from gathering on my property?
Geese are attracted to areas with open water and large expanses of grass, such as golf courses, parks and large apartment complexes. The problem is most noticeable during winter when large numbers of migrating geese join year-round residents.
- Do not feed geese. Feeding compounds the overpopulation problem and invites disease.
- Fence your yard. Eliminate some of the large expanses of lawn by planting shrubs and other visual barriers. If there is a water feature near your property, change the landscaping to eliminate a smooth slope toward the water. Large rocks, shrubs and visual barriers between grass and water will discourage geese from choosing a property as their residence.
During fall and winter, noise-making tactics may discourage these birds from staying on your property.
How can I get geese to leave my property once they are here?
Canada geese, as with all migratory birds, are a federally protected species. It is not legal to kill Canada geese or damage their eggs or nests without prior written permission. However, a permit is not required to scare or repel geese to protect your property, as long as the birds are not harmed. Hazing geese can involve vigorously chasing geese with a broom or water hose. Repeated hazing can cause geese to relocate, but you must begin again if geese return. Hazing is most effective when geese first arrive at a location.
You may also employ noisemakers and pyrotechnics to deter resident geese, but you should check with local authorities first and, by all means, warn your neighbors. It is also possible to use highly trained dogs to chase off geese, but this is not a method that can be used with just a pet dog. You may also be able to use a swan with clipped wings to ward off geese, but swans can also show aggression to people in the area as well. You should research these methods before attempting to employ them.
There are several other methods of dealing with geese, including barriers, repellents, and hunting (in season). The key to discouraging Canada geese from inhabiting your land is to respond quickly, stay persistent, and try to use more than one method at a time.
Find out more information about living with Canada geese.
For more tips and information about handling Canada geese problems, read our informative press release or contact your local CPW office.