Canada Geese

Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Handling


Canada geese (Branta canadensis) are a valuable natural resource that provide recreation and enjoyment to bird watchers, hunters, and the general public. The “V” formation of a flock of flying Canada geese is a sign of the changing seasons. Geese that migrate do not necessarily cause damage. In this section, we refer mostly to flocks of “resident” or non-migratory geese that inhabit areas throughout the year. 

Legal Status

All Canada geese, including residents, are protected by federal and state laws and regulations that govern capturing, handling, or killing Canada geese, including disturbance of nests and eggs. Permits are required for most control activities. Contact your state agency for more detailed information.

Physical Description

Canada geese are black and tan with a large, white patch on the cheek. A male (gander) and female (goose) look similar, but males are slightly larger. Canada geese are 22 to 48 inches tall and weigh up to 24 pounds.  

Species Range

Canada geese live throughout the US. In the summer, migratory geese fly north to nest in the potholes of North and South Dakota, as well as Canada and Alaska. Canada geese inhabit the rest of the US throughout the year.  

Voice and Sounds

Canada geese communicate through body language, calls, and honking.  

Tracks and Signs

Distribution of Canada geese in North America. Image by Stephen M. Vantassel. 

The droppings of Canada geese usually are tubular.  

Droppings are green when geese are eating grasses. Tracks are easy to find in soft soils or sand. 

Fresh dropping of a Canada goose.  
Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel. 
Track of a Canada goose. Image by Dee Ebbeka 


Information on this species is based on the chapter in Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage (Hygnstrom, Larson, Timm, ed. 1994), written by Edward Cleary (Assistant State Director, USDA-APHIS Animal Damage Control, Sandusky, Ohio).