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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Canada Goose -- Branta canadensis

RANGE: Breeds from the Arctic Coast of Alaska and northern Canada east to Baffin Island, south to central California, east to western Tennessee, southern Ontario and Quebec, and Newfoundland. Winters from south-coastal and southeastern Alaska, British Columbia and southern Alberta east to the Atlantic Coast of Newfoundland, and south to Mexico, the Gulf Coast and northern Florida.

STATUS: Common; 11 subspecies of the Canada goose are currently recognized.

HABITAT: Found in a variety of habitats near water, from forested and prairie regions to tundra, breeding on swamps, marshes, meadows, rivers, banks of lakes and ponds, and on islands. Winters in tidewater areas, marshes, inland refuges, and in flooded fields.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Elevated habitat feature or artificial structures near water for nesting.

NEST: Usually nests on the ground near water (generally within 150 feet), preferably on a slightly elevated site that is isolated and affords good visibility of the surrounding area. Prefers muskrat houses for nesting but will also nest on small islands lacking tall growth, haystacks, rocky cliffs, hummocks, ridges of silt, pond banks, beaver lodges, and occasionally abandoned nests of ospreys, ravens, owls, or herons. Has successfully adapted to nesting on artificial structures.

FOOD: Essentially a grazer, preferring young, green tender plants. Consumes various grasses and forbs, both terrestrial and aquatic. Consumes agricultural crops as primary food during migration and winter. Also consumes small amounts of insects, insect larvae, mollusks, and small crustaceans.

REFERENCES: Bellrose 1976, Hansen and Nelson 1964, Terres 1980, VanWormer 1968.

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