Species Profile – Canada Goose

Mon, November 28, 2016 | Lakes and Parks


Scientific Name: Branta canadensis

Common Name(s): Canada Goose


The Canada goose is a common and easily identifiable migratory bird.  It has a black neck and head with a white strap around the bottom of its beak up behind its eye.  The belly of this bird is a shade of beige or light brown, with the sides and back of the body being a darker shake of beige or brown. This bird ranges from 30-43 inches in length with a 50-73 inch wing span, while weighing in at 5.3-14.3lbs.  The Canada goose group contains seven subspecies which vary in size and plumage, but all are easily identified as Canada geese.



The Canada goose is native to North America where it inhabits nearly all of the North American landmass.  In most of Canada and the northern border of the United States, the Canada goose is considered a breeding resident, and is found during the summer months.  In the Unites States south from California to West Virginia to northern Mexico it is considered a non-breeding resident and can be found during the winter months.  In the northern half of the United States the Canada goose can be found year round and is considered a permanent resident.


The Canada goose is a migratory bird that inhabits nearly all of North America.  It is mainly herbivorous in its diet, consuming grasses, grains, and other green vegetation while occasionally consuming insects or small fish.  This bird is generally not considered to be a prey animal.  The size, aggression, and flight capabilities of adult birds generally deter any would-be predators, however, eggs and goslings are easy prey for many predators (coyotes, foxes, raccoons, crows, gulls, bears, and even fish).

Canada goose temperament ranges from generally passive to very aggressive.  In areas with frequent interactions with humans these geese may ignore human presence or seek interaction in hopes of being fed.  Some geese are very aggressive and may try to attack people who stray too close.  Although generally not a threat to a healthy adult human, this goose has a powerful bite and may also inflict deep scratches with its feet.

In some areas the Canada goose is considered to be a highly destructive pest.  Even in small flocks these birds can devastate the vegetation in an area, bringing it down to bare dirt. As they feed they also leave behind large amounts of feces, which can be cause for health concerns, especially if near water sources.  Feces can also cause dead spots on golf greens.

Special Notes for Bella Vista:

Despite being a potential pest, the Canada goose is still protected under federal migratory bird laws except during a regulated hunting season.  An overpopulated resident population is of particular concern and is justification for the September hunting season.  This occurs well before their migratory cousins arrive and therefore prevents the harvest of those migratory birds.  Remember, the discharge of firearms within Bella Vista is illegal.  If there is serious concern about damage to personal property, it is advised to seek counsel with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.  Otherwise, it is advised to leave these birds alone.

Here in Bella Vista, Canada geese are found around nearly all water bodies, including streams, lakes, and ponds. Generally, the birds here are of a shy to peaceful disposition, but interaction is still not advised because of possibly aggressive individuals as well as their status as protected animals under federal law.  Feeding these birds is prohibited and is unhealthy for the animal.