Canada Geese: What’s their deal?
This is a guest blog written by Shelby Grund, the Digital Communications Intern, Winter 2023
If there is an animal you might see in every state in America, it’s Canada geese. Whether they are swimming in a river, hanging out in a parking lot, or chasing you down a street, Canada geese seem to appear out of thin air. They are noisy, large birds who don’t seem to have a rhyme or reason to their location. Given this, the question has to be asked, what is their deal?
After some brief research on these interesting animals via the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, I found that they actually do reside in every state in America including Alaska and even Hawai’i. They can even travel upwards of 1,500 miles per day, if the weather allows. This may be how they have made it to every state, although, still not exactly clear how they made it to Hawai’i.
Let's Stay In Touch!
We’re hard at work for rivers and clean water. Sign up to get the most important news affecting your water and rivers delivered right to your inbox.
Their habitat preference includes rivers, ponds, lakes, grain fields, fresh and saltwater marshes. Canada geese utilize their aquatic habitats throughout their life cycle. During the breeding season, Canada geese can mainly be found near lakeshores or riverbanks, as they often establish nests there due to the availability of water that ensures sources of food. These bodies of water are also great at providing protection from predators.
As the seasons change, Canada geese embark on their migratory flights, utilizing rivers as aerial pathways and lakes as rest stops for replenishing energy reserves. These wondrous birds fly south for the winter in a “V” shape, as most birds do. They form this specific pattern in order to fly faster and more efficiently. While migrating, these geese communicate with honks and switch positions in order for the main goose flying in front to not get too tired.
As many people may know, and have personally experienced, Canada geese can tend to be a bit aggressive to other animals and people. While this usually is during mating and/or baby season when they have their younglings, these geese seem to also be combative during any time of the year. Anyone who owns dogs or walks around rivers and parks where these geese are have most likely had one chase or hiss at them.
I for one grew up at a pond with a lot of them and have had several encounters of running from these large birds, dragging my dog behind me. One time in particular, I was sitting on a bench with one of my neighborhood friends when a flock near the pond started getting a little ‘too close’. The situation in retrospect was hilarious, although in the moment, my friend and I, being around 12 years old, did not find it so funny. It must’ve been the fact that we had sandwiches with us, or that we were less than 20 yards away, or that the weather was a smidge under perfect, but these geese were relentless. Before we knew it, my friend and I were running down the path back to her house, throwing our sandwiches and anything we could find at the hissing birds. Running from the geese quite literally felt like running from bullies who were trying to steal our lunch. Needless to say, for those next couple of days we mainly stuck to the other side of the pond.
Aside from the lovely ‘nature’ of Canada geese, a more loving fact about them is they actually tend to mate for life. Once a goose finds a partner, they will stay with them usually until one of them passes. I actually found this fact to be very sweet, and I envision (an understatement, I hope) this might give a more heroic factor to the aggressiveness of these geese and why they might be so protective. Going along with being loving, geese are extremely protective of their younglings, and essentially keep them at their side at all times. Parent geese use rivers and lakes to teach their goslings how to swim, as well as how to catch their own food.
Overall, I would like to say that as interesting as Canada Geese are, I do still adore them and their fearless nature. While birds are normally flight animals, I would consider these geese to be more fight animals, and credit must be given in that area. They also are mainly aggressive in order to protect their young and mates, which is how the majority of animals in the wild behave with mothering instincts. Their migration patterns are fascinating, and their ability to live essentially anywhere is incredible.
The only personal advice that I could give if wanting to know how to coincide with these animals, is to admire their beauty and bravery from afar. These majestic birds are bold and fascinating, making sure that they are heard and respected in all communities, as they should be.