The Canada Goose


Named for their migration to and from our northern neighbor, Canada geese have settled across all of North America. Some Canada geese do still migrate. However, many remain in the United States all year. The Canada geese in Tallahassee are not migratory and are notorious wild residents of our city. They make their presence known with loud honks as they fly across the sky in their well-known V-formation or by the honking produced when they stop traffic to casually cross a road. With their distinct black heads and necks and white chin straps, these beautiful birds attract attention. Here is a glimpse into the life of a goose.



Canada geese prioritize security when choosing a home to start their families. They prefer open areas to be able to see predators approaching. They build nests on dry ground near water, which provides an escape route from land predators. Geese are excellent swimmers and often sleep on the water at night when they are not breeding. Canada geese often rely on the water for protection since they regularly molt their flight feathers in the summer, leaving them flightless for approximately a month. The molting season usually lines up shortly after the spring breeding time, when they would not be flying anyway since their babies, called goslings, cannot fly yet. The parents and fledglings will grow flight feathers around the same time. Geese also find their preferred food near water.



Mainly herbivores, a goose’s diet consists mostly of grass, aquatic plants, and seeds. Geese prefer to graze in open grassy areas near water. They occasionally eat small insects, mollusks, and clams but typically consume plants, berries, and seeds as their main food source.



Canada geese are family-oriented, almost always seen in a flock, or gaggle, rather than living solitary lives. A gander and goose typically monogamously mate for life. Pairs will nest separately from the flock, and the parents work together to raise goslings from eggs to fledglings. A female will normally lay one clutch per year. A single clutch can include up to ten eggs but averages around five. The eggs incubate with the mother for about a month while the father guards the nest. The hatchlings become independent very quickly, as they are able to walk, swim, and feed on their own about a day after exiting their shells. A few months after hatching, once the geese grow flight feathers, the family will rejoin the flock, allowing the new geese to meet each other and form new pairs over time. Goslings usually stay in a flock with their parents for about a year at least and choose a mate around two or three years old.



If you encounter a goose, give it some space. Especially in the spring, geese can be very territorial since they are nesting. It is also important for their safety to not be too familiar with humans. Limit contact as much as possible and just admire them from afar. You also may want reconsider swimming in water where many geese are present. Their droppings can contaminate the water with parasites and bacteria that could be harmful to humans. Please do not feed wild geese. Human food fills them up but does not provide the proper nutrition they need, and providing an artificial food source can attract them to places they should not be. Simply allowing them to forage as they were designed is the best way to make sure they are fed.



There are times when geese are not the best neighbors. Not only can they be noisy and messy, but they are also known to overgraze, feed on crops, and increase the growth of plant algae in lakes. If geese are causing issues on your property, there are steps you can take to encourage them to choose a new home. If you have a body of water attracting them, you can place a grid across the top to prevent them from landing on the water and/or allow the vegetation to grow taller around the perimeter of the water to deter them from walking from the land. Fencing off areas you do not want geese to access has also proven to be effective. Even a simple string at the right height can act as a barrier. Other methods of deterring them include loud noises, guard dogs, and remote-controlled items that can startle the geese. It is important that you do not cause physical harm to a goose no matter how much of a pest it is being. Doing so could earn you a hefty fine if not a harsher penalty.



Canada geese are federally protected. In order to legally hunt them as game, you must obtain the correct permitting and licensing. Even with a permit, you may only hunt during the specific season and within the authorized limits.


Canada geese have garnered a reputation in Tallahassee, but I hope you can appreciate these feathered friends a little more after learning further about them. These wild creatures are considerate in how they care for their flocks, working together to protect the young and taking turns leading in flight to conserve energy. Take care to let them be wild and share space peacefully.  


Kimberly McMahon

Home & Yard Magazine