Canada goose Branta canadensis canadensis

The Canada goose is a large goose with a distinctive black head and neck and a large white throat patch. The breast and flanks are pale brown and there is a distinctive white patch under the tail. They form large flocks that roost together in the autumn and winter on mud banks. Their loud honking announces their presence. They walk or fly in a noisy manner to their roosts at dusk. Canada geese are by nature migratory, but those living in the UK and Ireland tend to be resident birds. In Scotland, they are mostly sedentary, undertaking local movements to moulting areas.


Canada geese are sociable and noisy birds that live near fresh water areas such as lakes and ponds as well as flooded sand and gravel pits, marshes, meadows, reservoirs and sometimes estuaries. Their preferred habitat is near water with open areas of short grass. Although they are waterfowl, they spend as much time on land as they do in the water. In the spring and summer months, the geese eat leaves, flowers, stems, roots, seeds and berries and grasses. They have also been known to eat and damage crops.

Less than 24 hours after they are born, goslings will be lead to water by their parents to learn how to swim. Goslings will be able to dive up to 10 metres by the time they are one day old. Canada geese mate for life. They begin searching for a mate when they are between two and three years of age.


  • Length 75-110cm
  • Wingspan 160 -180cm
  • Weight: 3-5.0kg
  • Average Lifespan: 10-25 years


Not assessed (introduced breeder in Scotland).


Scottish populations of Canada geese are found in Dumfries and Galloway and Perth and Kinross. Distributions tend to be the same in and out of the breeding season.

When to see

All year round.


  • Canada geese were originally introduced to Britain in St James Park, London in the mid-17th century. Release dates in Scotland are unknown, but in the early 1980s there were still only about 500 birds in Scotland, predominantly in Dumfries and Galloway.
  • Canada geese usually fly in a V-shaped formation, with one bird in the lead, the others trailing behind in two diverging lines. The V-shape makes the flock more efficient, with vortices of air created by each goose’s flapping giving some lift to the birds behind it. It is also easier for the geese to maintain visual contact with each other and communicate, which helps navigation and flock cohesion.

Common name

Canada goose

Species name

Branta canadensis canadensis

IUCN Red List status

Least concern

When to see in Scotland

All year round.

Where to see in Scotland

Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves such as Montrose Basin or Bemersyde Moss.

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