Basic Information
Common Name: Canada Goose
Scientific Name: Branta canadensis
Species Code:
Management Category: VG (species not specifically managed for, but may benefit from vegetation management for VF species)
Occurrence Map
Table of Occurrences
File name Lead Author Year Type
Canada Goose Unitt, Philip 2004 other
Canada Goose Unitt, Philip 2004 other
DRAFT Environmental Impact Statement: Resident Canada Goose Management 2002 report

Current Distribution Rangewide

Endemic to North America, occurring in every state due to translocations and introductions since the 1940s, each Province in Canada, and many States of Mexico [1]. Accidental in Hawaii, Greater Antilles, and the Bahamas [2]. Introduced and established in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the British Isles, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Sardinia, Ukraine, Russia, and New Zealand [3].

Known Populations in San Diego County

May move freely among wintering sites in San Diego County at sites such as Lake Hodges in San Pasqual Valley, Santa Maria Valley near Ramona, and Bonsall in the San Luis Rey Valley [4]. Lake Henshaw, Sweetwater Reservoir, and golf courses in Borrego Valley are also known wintering sites.

List Status


Habitat Affinities

Inhabits various habitats located near open water, from temperate regions to Tundra [2]. Prefers lakes, ponds, marshes, bays and fields [3]. Also found on fresh emergent wetlands, moist grasslands, croplands, pastures, and meadows [5].

Taxonomy and Genetics

Eleven subspecies recognized and split into two groups: seven in Canadensis (canadensis, fulva, interior, maxima, moffitti, occidentalis, and parvipes) and four in Tundra (hutchinsii,leaucopareia, minima, and taverneri) [3;6]. Primary winter visitor in San Diego County is the large B. c. moffitti [4].

Seasonal Activity

Fall migration from most northerly nesting areas begins in late August, and departures continue through September [3]. Geese reach northern U.S. by late September through early October. Those wintering farthest south arrive at their wintering areas by early- to mid-November. Most geese reach wintering terminus by mid-December. Main wintering season from mid-November to late February in San Diego County [4]. Migration is both nocturnal and diurnal [5].

Life History/Reproduction

Monogamous [1;3;5]. Some breed first at 2 years of age [7, cited in 5]. In California, nests from March to June in northeastern regions and February to June on coastal slopes [8, cited in 5]. Clutch usually 2-8 eggs [3]. Female exclusively incubates [1;3]. Incubation period lasts 24-30 days, depending on subspecies [1]. Young are precocial [2; 3; 5] and tended to by both parents [2;5]. First flight around 8 to 9 weeks, and will remain with parents until the following spring [5].

Diet and Foraging

Exclusively herbivorous [1; 9, cited in 3 and 10]. Efficient grazer. Feeds in family groups during brooding [3]. Considerable geographic variation in diet [5]. Diet governed by seasonal variation in nutritional requirements and quality and quantity of food, as modified by availability of specific foods [3]. Consumes grasses, sedges, or other green monocots during periods of increase in lean body mass, primarily the growth period in summer [10]. Most populations rely primarily on foods higher in carbohydrate, such as berries during the fall and winter. Almost all populations readily adapted to use of agricultural crops, which predominate in diets of most populations during portions of annual cycle in which they are available [3]. Acclimated to urban environments where they graze on domesticated grasses throughout the year [11, cited in 3].


Natal dispersal strongly male-based [12]. Males move between hatching and breeding sites significantly further than females. Once an individual starts breeding at a site, it appears to continue breeding there for the rest of its life.


Threatened by habitat reductions due to loss of wetlands from urban development [3].

Special Considerations:

Special considerations: B. c. moffitti is known as a resident goose. Geese nesting and/or residing within the conterminous United States in the months of April, May, June, July, and August will be referred to as "resident" in the DEIS. Resident geese remain in areas associated with human activity and longer growing seasons all year. May forage in urban gardens and consume a variety of native and exotic plants, as well as human hand-outs [11, cited in 1]. Sexual maturity occurs in resident geese at an earlier age than most migrant geese where residents breed first at 2-3 years of age [13;14; both cited in 1] and most migrants do not nest until the ages of 3-5 years [15;16;17; all cited in 1].

Literature Sources

[1] US Fish and Wildlife Service. 2002. Draft environmental impact statement: resident Canada goose management. US Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC, USA.

[2] NatureServe. 2017. NatureServe Explorer: An Online Encyclopedia of Life [Web Application]. Version 7.1.NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available: Accessed: November 07, 2017.

[3] Mowbray, T. B., C. R. Ely, J. S. Sedinger and R. E. Trost. 2002. Canada Goose (Branta canadensis), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA. Available: Accessed: November 22, 2017.

[4] Unitt, P. 2004. San Diego County Bird Atlas. Proc. San Diego Soc. Nat Hist. No. 39. 

[5] Granholm, S. 2000. Canada Goose. California Wildlife Habitat Relationship Program Staff, eds. California's Wildlife. Vol. I-III. California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, California.

[6] Sangster, G., Collinson, J., Helbig, A.J., Knox, A.G. and Parkin, D.T. 2005. Taxonomic recommendations for British birds: third report. Ibis, 147(4): 821-826.

[7] Palmer, R.S. ed, 1976. Handbook of North American Birds Volume II: Waterfowl (Vol. 2). Yale University Press.

[8] Cogswell, H. L. 1977. Water birds of California. University of California Press, Berkeley. 399pp.

[9] Owen, M. 1980. Wild geese of the world: their life history and ecology. BT Batsford Limited.

[10] Sedinger, J. S. and D. G. Raveling. 1984. Dietary selectivity in relation to availability and quality of food for goslings of cackling geese. The Auk: 295-306.

[11] Conover, M.R. and Kania, G.S. 1991. Characteristics of feeding sites used by urban-suburban flocks of Canada geese in Connecticut. Wildlife Society Bulletin (1973-2006), 19(1): 36-38.

[12] Lessells, C.M. 1985. Natal and breeding dispersal of Canada geese Branta canadensis. Ibis, 127(1): 31-41.

[13] Brakhage, G. K. 1965. Biology and behavior of tub-nesting Canada geese. Journal of Wildlife Management 29:751-771.

[14] Cooper, J. A. 197 8. The histo ry and bree ding biology of the Canada geese of Marshy Point, Manitoba. Wildlife Monograph 61. 87 pp.

[15] Hardy, J. D., and T. C. Tacha. 1989. Age-related recruitment of Canada geese from the Mississippi Valley Population. Journal of Wildlife Management 53:97-98.

[16] Moser, T. J. and D. H. Rusch. 1989. Age-specific breeding rates of female interior Canada geese. Journal of Wildlife Management 53:734-740.

[17] Rusch, D. H., J. C. Wood, G. G. Zenner. 1996. The dilemma of giant Canada goose management. Pages 72-78 in Ratti, J. T. ed . 7th International Waterfowl Symposium. Ducks Unlimited, Inc., Memphis, TN.