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 Many people can recognize a Canada Goose by its characteristic black head, white cheek patches, and long black neck. However, there are several different races, so a Canada Goose in one region may be quite different from a Canada Goose in another. Although there has been some disagreement about the exact number of races of Canada Geese, most scientists believe that there are 11.
This bird

  • flies in large V-shaped flocks when migrating
  • can travel more than 1 000 km in one day
  • nests in the same area where its parents nested and often uses the same nest every year
  • mates for life, but if one member of the pair dies, the other will take another mate

Members of the different races range in size from one of the smallest geese, the Cackling Canada Goose, which can weigh as little as 1.1 kg, to the largest of all geese, the Giant Canada Goose, which can weigh up to 8 kg. Wingspans vary between about 90 cm and 2 m. The under parts range in colour from light pearl-grey to chestnut, and even blackish brown. Differences in body proportions, particularly the relative length of the neck, the body shape, and the body stance, further distinguish the different races. In general, the larger the bird, the longer the neck and the more elongated the body. Please note: Four former races of Canada Goose are now considered a separate species, the Cackling Goose. These geese all breed in the Arctic, and in general, they are smaller than Canada Geese. A revised version of this fact sheet reflecting this change will be posted soon.
Newly hatched Canada Geese have a coat of yellow to olive down that darkens to dull grey over the first few weeks of life. As the birds grow, feathers gradually cover the down, and by the time the young geese are ready to fly in late summer, they are nearly indistinguishable from their parents. From that point on, both males and females look the same throughout the year.