The Canada Goose: Facts and figures on one of Ontario’s most elegant birds

The Canada Goose is one of the most elegant and familiar birds in Ontario, but in past years it has experienced many dangers, including near extinction.

The identification of the Canada Goose is quite simple as they are a very distinct bird. Their size ranges in length from 55 – 122 centimeters, which includes their long, sleek black neck. As well the Canada Goose can reach widths of 1.8 meters which is mainly a long wingspan. The underparts of this bird are light brown in color, along with darker brown upper parts ending with a short black tail. But, by far the most distinguishing feature of the Canada Goose is the white chin strap which is clearly visible against the black neck.

The Canada Goose is a very abundant bird throughout the province of Ontario. They are especially common in the northern areas and southern parts of the province along the coast of Lake Ontario. Here in the southern reaches of the province is the only place in the province in which the Canada Goose can be spotted year round. It was here, in the southern areas, where these birds were nearly hunted to extinction many years ago.

Throughout its range the Canada Goose will spend most of its time along lake shores, river banks, and ponds. They also spend time in farmlands and city parks where they commonly feed. Generally, the Canada Goose grazes on new sprouts and aquatic vegetation. Also, they tend to feed on grass and the roots of small plants. As well, similar to the Mallard Duck, the Canada Goose will tip up in the water to feed off aquatic roots and tubers.

The nesting habits of the Canada Goose are a plant material nest lined with down, which is generally placed on an island, to avoid predation. Nesting on the ground, the female will lay three to eight white eggs which she will incubate for 25 to 28 days. During this time, while the female incubates, the male will stand guard of his nest. The male stands solitary attempting to deter any possible predators away from his eggs and nest. Hoarse hissing sounds and a low out-stretched neck are the signals that you are getting too close.

During the winter months Canada Geese are quite rare in Ontario, as most prefer to winter in warmer climates. Through the months of March to May and September to November this bird is most abundant. Also, when watching for this bird the best sites for spotting it in Ontario are: Jack-Miners Bird Sanctuary in Kingsville, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Toronto Islands, Sault Ste. Marie waterfront, and in Rene Brunelle Provincial Park in Hearst.

Being such a common sight to most people in Ontario, many are surprised to find out one fact about the Canada Goose. That is, that most populations of these birds today are reintroductions. Due to their near extinction most of these birds had to be bred in captivity and released into the wild. Without these reintroductions this elegant bird may not be here today.