Canada Geese Damage Management Areas

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Crop Damage

Canada geese in a cornfield. Photo by
Canada geese in a cornfield. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Evidence of goose damage to crops may include clipped leaves and stalks on plants, as well as goose droppings. Crop damage by Canada geese (Branta canadensis) can be especially high during the molting period, when geese have a higher energy demand because of feather production (Dieter and Anderson 2009). Since many crop species are very nutritious, they provide a good diet to the geese and become a prime target.

A study done on a newly seeded perennial ryegrass field indicated that grazing by geese in April reduced seed yield on that field by 11% to 27% (Borman et al. 2000). In a one-month period, Canada geese were able to directly destroy crops taking income away from the land owner.

Geese typically feed twice a day: once in the morning and later in the afternoon. They then return to their roost site in the evening which is usually on open water such as lakes, ponds, and even flooded areas in fields.

Canada geese feed on a variety of wild and cultivated plants, but like to feed on corn. Geese prefer harvested corn fields where they can see danger approaching, as well as

Canada goose damage to beans. Photo by
Goose damage to .... Photo:2010 Extension.
 land and take off effectively. Corn is most vulnerable when a field has been “opened” or harvest has begun. Corn fields are at high risk if they are left un-harvested over winter and the grain is still there when geese migrate back in spring. Canada geese can easily remove kernels from a cob with their bill (Craven and Heinrich 1996). Corn remaining from the previous fall may also be important to the success of their nesting (Craven and Heinrich 1996).

Canada geese feed secondarily on winter wheat and alfalfa which are very nutritious (Craven and Heinrich 1996). Both crops are subject to heavy grazing by Canada geese. The energy provided by the first green growth is important to the success of the bird’s spring nesting success.

Special circumstances


Geese in cornfield. Photo by Jessica Edgar
Large populations of geese come to Nebraska during the spring migration.  Photo: Jessica Edgar
Fall migration starts in late August and early September so that birds can escape the cold weather and freezing bodies of water by traveling to warmer southern areas with open water. Spring migration starts in late January and early February, during which birds fly north, following the melting snowline until they reach nesting grounds in the northern United States and Canada. Resident Canada Geese have in general become non-migratory, causing them to stay in their current town, city, or rural area, living in farm ponds, golf course lakes, parks, and other bodies of water where food sources are available (Giannetta 2007).

Crop Seasons

During fall migration, many crops have been harvested or are in the process of being

Canada geese rummage harvested fields for dropped grain. Photo: Aaron Phipps
Canada geese rummage harvested fields for dropped grain. Photo: Aaron Phipps of Grand Rapids Press. (META DATA SAYS MARK COPIER. )
 harvested, so a lot of grain is available on the ground. Birds can land in partially harvested fields and walk into full grown plants to feed on the grain. Winter wheat can also be affected by geese migration because it is planted from September to December and has to sprout before the first freeze, after which it becomes dormant. This allows geese to easily land in fields and feed on the young wheat seedlings. Many crops need to be planted in the middle of March, which leaves them vulnerable to geese during spring migration. The ground is thawed so sprouts may be surfacing at this time, making the plant easy for Canada geese to eat. Geese will eat entire seedlings from the loose soil causing substantial damage.

National Flyways

Geese landing in corn field. Photo by NGPC
Geese landing in corn field. Photo: NGPC
Flyways used by Canada geese include: the Mississippi Flyway (along the Mississippi River), the Central Flyway (Great Plains region from the Rocky Mountains to the Missouri River and beyond), the Atlantic Flyway (along the eastern coast of North America), and the Pacific Flyway (along the western edge of the Rockies to the western coast of North America). Crops in each area a susceptible to goose damage due to the large numbers of geese that pass through. Also, while migrating the birds need many nutrients to help them complete the flight, so they capitalize on the available crops.

Weather Variables

Standing water on crop land can attrract geese. Photo: Iowa State University.
Standing water in crop fields can attract resident geese as well as migrating geese to feed on newly sprouted seedlings. Photo: Iowa State University. Permission Pending
Canada Geese eat crops including seedling alfalfa, winter wheat, and standing corn, sometimes trampling almost as much as they consume (Briggs and Rollins 1996). High moisture climates or changes in weather patterns can cause pooling or marshy conditions in or near farm ground, which attracts Canada geese. Geese are able to land in the water and walk out into crop fields to feed. Being near open water also gives the geese a sense of security. Standing water in fields provides them with an escape, even though the water may only be several inches deep.  



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For details on management options visit Canada Goose Management

Other Useful Links,1607,7-153-10370_12145_25065-59467--,00.html

Canada goose track. Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel

Recommended Citation

Canada Goose Management Website. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NRES 348 Wildlife Damage Management class, Spring Semester, 2010. Scott Hygnstrom, Instructor; Stephen Vantassel, Webmaster.


Picture (left) is a Canada goose track. Photo: Stephen M. Vantassel

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