Canada goose (Branta Canadensis)

The Canada goose is native to North America and belongs to the Branta genus of geese which are distinguished by having largely black plumage.  It is easily recognised as a large bird with a black head and large white throat patch the similar Barnacle goose has a black breast and body plumage which is grey.  The Canada goose has seven subspecies and is normally about 30 -42 inches long with a 50-71 inch (1.3 to 1.8 meter) wing span. The male can weigh up to 14lbs with the female slightly lighter and smaller, a sub species can grow as large as 24 pounds with a wingspan of 2.24 meters.  The Canada goose normally has a life expectancy of between 10 and 24 years.

Canada GooseIts native habitat is North America breeding in Canada and Northern US but a large population can now be found in the UK, northern Europe and even Eastern China and Japan. In the UK their introduction can be traced to the 17th century where some were part of King James II’s waterfowl collection. In the UK they can be found in all areas except the far north of Scotland, with few natural predators they have become a pest and at times threaten native species. They gather in large numbers in parks, areas near lakes and rivers and sometimes open fields.

The goose eats most green vegetation, grains and grasses including rice, corn and wheat when it can get them, it holds the plant with its bill and jerks its head to tear them free of the ground, in water it feeds on silt at the bottom but also on aquatic plants. The birds mate during when two years old and then stay most of their lives together only seeking a new mate if one is killed. The female will lay up to 8 eggs and although both parents will guard the nest the female spends more time on the nest.  During incubation period which is about 28 days both parents loose their flight feathers and cannot fly. They will aggressively guard the nest hissing at anyone or thing that approaches too near and bites on humans are not unknown

Populations of Canada Geese have grown rapidly in recent years and several countries have conducted culls.  In 1995, a US Air Force E-3 Sentry aircraft at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska struck a flock of Canada Geese on takeoff and crashed, killing all 24 crew. Unfortunatly the meat is too tough to eat for most peoples tastes although younger birds can be used to make curries. UK birds do not migrate but can be seen in the classic V formation often honking loudly, there are an estimated  82,000 Canada Geese in the UK.