Wild Profile: Meet the Canada goose

A single Canada goose flying against a blue sky background By gregg williams/Shutterstock

Look, up in the air—it’s a Canada goose, flying in V formation with a gaggle of other geese! Yup, October and November is migration time for the large, loud birds. Though not all geese migrate, many travel to winter destinations from their Canadian homes in marshes, beaver ponds, lakes, rivers, and fields.

The Canada goose is a noisy one. Especially while flying in a group (migrating flocks are made up of several goose families). Geese honk to keep track of each other, but the young’uns are particularly vocal for a different reason. Adult geese have had the time to build up fat stores to use as nourishment during the trip. Babies? Not so much. So they’re hungry. (“Mommm, are we there yet? I want a snack!”) This constant nagging drives the flock to land periodically, usually after flying for about 300 km.

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The “V formation” flying configuration—it’s also common with ducks and other migratory birds—not only looks cool, it’s efficient for the flock. The strategy reduces wind resistance. The suction effect that one flapping bird creates with every downstroke helps to carry the bird flying behind it. (It’s similar to why a road cyclist can ride much faster while following behind a bus or another big vehicle.)

Canada geese stay in their winter digs until spring, before migrating back home as early as April. Mother and father pairs—geese mate for life—both pitch in to take care of the goslings, which come along in May. Geese families will stick to good grazing grounds for the summer, generally making a bit of a mess: one goose can produce up to 150 droppings per day. Holy crap!

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