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WILDLIFE SPECIES:  Branta canadensis
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife photo.



WILDLIFE SPECIES: Branta canadensis
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Snyder, S. A. 1993. Branta canadensis. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : BRCA COMMON NAMES : Canada goose cackling goose TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for Canada goose is Branta canadensis (Linnaeus) [17,21]. There are eleven subspecies of Canada goose [1,14,20]: Branta canadensis subsp. moffitti - western or Great Basin Canada goose Branta canadensis subsp. canadensis - Atlantic Canada goose Branta canadensis subsp. interior - Hudson Bay, Todd, or interior Canada goose Branta canadensis subsp. occidentalis - dusky Canada goose Branta canadensis subsp. fulva - Vancouver or Queen Charlotte Canada goose Branta canadensis subsp. maxima - giant Canada goose Branta canadensis subsp. taverneri - Taverner's or Alaskan Canada goose Branta canadensis subsp. hutchinsii - Richardson's or Baffin Island Canada goose Branta canadensis subsp. parvipes - lesser or Athabasca Canada goose Branta canadensis subsp. leucopareira - Aleutian Canada goose Branta canadensis subsp. minima - cackling Canada goose The Canada goose hybridizes with the snow goose (Chen caerulescens) [20]. ORDER : Anseriformes CLASS : Bird FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : None [21] OTHER STATUS : Information on state- and province-level protection status of animals in the United States and Canada is available at NatureServe, although recent changes in status may not be included.


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Branta canadensis
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : The Canada goose is widely distributed throughout North America; it occurs in or at least migrates through every state and province. General distributions of each population during breeding and wintering seasons are given below [1,14,15]: B. c. moffitti - breeds from central Alberta and British Columbia south to the central northwestern states; winters in the Southwest B. c. canadensis - breeds on Baffin Island, Labrador, Newfoundland, Anticosti Island, and the Magdalen Islands; winters in New England and the Maritime Provinces B. c. interior - breeds in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba; winters in the Midwest and from Delaware to North Carolina B. c. occidentalis - breeds on Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet; winters from Washington to California B. c. fulva - breeds and winters along coast of Alaska and British Columbia B. c. maxima - breeds and winters on refuges in the farm belt states, typically Oklahoma and Kansas B. c. taverneri - breeds throughout interior Alaska; winters from Washington to California B. c. hutchinsii - breeds on western Baffin Island and surrounding islands; winters on the North Platte River in Nebraska and in Oklahoma and Texas B. c. parvipes - breeds from central Alaska across northern Canada; winters in the same areas as B. c. hutchinsii B. c. leucopareira - breeds on the Aleutian Islands; winters from Washington to California B. c. minima - breeds along coastal Alaska; winters from Washington to California ECOSYSTEMS : FRES17 Elm-ash-cottonwood FRES19 Aspen-birch FRES28 Western hardwoods FRES29 Sagebrush FRES31 Shinnery FRES32 Texas savanna FRES36 Mountain grasslands FRES37 Mountain meadows FRES38 Plains grasslands FRES39 Prairie FRES41 Wet grasslands FRES42 Annual grasslands STATES :
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 1 Northern Pacific Border 2 Cascade Mountains 3 Southern Pacific Border 4 Sierra Mountains 5 Columbia Plateau 6 Upper Basin and Range 7 Lower Basin and Range 8 Northern Rocky Mountains 9 Middle Rocky Mountains 10 Wyoming Basin 11 Southern Rocky Mountains 12 Colorado Plateau 13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont 14 Great Plains 15 Black Hills Uplift 16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K038 Great Basin sagebrush K047 Fescue - oatgrass K048 California steppe K049 Tule marshes K050 Fescue - wheatgrass K051 Wheatgrass - bluegrass K056 Wheatgrass - needlegrass shrubsteppe K063 Foothills prairie K066 Wheatgrass - needlegrass K067 Wheatgrass - bluestem - needlegrass K068 Wheatgrass - grama - buffalograss K069 Bluestem - grama prairie K070 Sandsage - bluestem prairie K071 Shinnery K072 Sea oats prairie K073 Northern cordgrass prairie K074 Bluestem prairie K075 Nebraska Sandhills prairie K076 Blackland prairie K077 Bluestem - sacahuista prairie K078 Southern cordgrass prairie K090 Live oak - sea oats SAF COVER TYPES : 16 Aspen 217 Aspen 222 Black cottonwood - willow SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY PLANT COMMUNITIES : Canada geese primarily use wetland areas dominated by emergent vegetation such as cattail (Typha spp.), bulrush (Scirpus spp.), sedge (Carex spp.), and reed (Phragmites spp.). They also inhabit communities dominated by prostrate willow (Salix spp.), dwarf birch (Betula nana), and Labrador tea (Ledum palustre) [1,19].


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Branta canadensis
TIMING OF MAJOR LIFE HISTORY EVENTS : Pair Data - usually monogamous for life; faithful to natal areas Nesting season - March through June Clutch - four to six eggs; may renest if first clutch is destroyed Incubation - varies between populations; 24 to 29 days Fledge - varies with populations; 42 to 86 days [1,14,15] PREFERRED HABITAT : Canada geese occupy a variety of habitats and have diverse nesting habits. They will usually return to the same nesting spots every year. The northern populations breed by open tundra, while southern populations breed near lakes or rivers and forests or open land [17]. Tundra nesters prefer firm ground on small islands surrounded by open water with good visibility to detect predators [14]. Canada geese prefer to nest on dry ground but near water and feeding areas. In some areas reeds are preferred for nesting while bulrush is used more frequently in others [14]. Canada geese can nest on the ground; on muskrat lodges; in old nests of eagles, herons, and osprey; on cliffs or haystacks; or on nesting platforms [1,17]. They also frequent agricultural land, inland or coastal marshes, and gravel pits. Reservoirs and lakes surrounded by grasslands and agricultural land are the most important breeding grounds for western Canada geese in southern Alberta [15]. This same population uses rivers, reservoirs, and impoundments in Montana; and marshes, river islands, flooded bottomlands, and reservoirs in Idaho [15]. COVER REQUIREMENTS : Because Canada geese nest in a wide variety of sites, their cover requirements are not very specialized or specific. Nesting sites that offer good visibility of the surrounding area, protection from predators, and are fairly close to the water (within 1 to 94 meters) are usually adequate enough to support a viable population of geese [4,19]. It is possible that fidelity to nesting sites is so strong that the type of cover chosen, whether shrub or grassland, is almost irrelevent in parts of Alaska [3]. Instead, nesting success may depend heavily on the absence of predators. FOOD HABITS : Canada geese eat roots, tubers, and leaves of various food plants which are usually locally abundant. Some foods include cordgrass (Spartina spp.), saltgrass (Distichlis spp.), pondweed (Potamogeton spp.), wigeon grass (Ruppia spp.), bulrush, sedge, cattail, glasswort (Salicornia spp.), spikerush (Eleocharis spp.), giant burreed (Sparganium eurycarpum), smartweed (Polygonum spp.), common harnwort (Ceratophyllum demersum), clover (Trifolium spp.), brome (Bromus spp.), foxtail (Alopecurus spp.), orchardgrass, bluegrass (Poa spp.), fescue (Festuca spp.), horsetail (Equisetum spp.), and bird's foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) [1,14]. Canada geese also consume a lot of crops such as alfalfa (Medicago sativa), corn (Zea mays), millet, rye (Secale spp.), barley (Hordeus spp.), sorghum (Sorghum spp.), oats (Avena spp.), and wheat (Triticum spp.) [1,6]. PREDATORS : Canada goose predators include humans; ravens,crows, and magpies (Corvidae); gulls (Larus spp.); parasitic jaeger (Stercorarius parasitucus); foxes (Vulpes, Urocyon, Aplex); brown bear (Ursus arctos); coyote (Canis latrans); raccoon (Procyon lotor); badger (Taxidea taxus); and bobcat (Felis rufus) [3,13]. MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Canada geese have become a nuisance in the Atlantic flyway states by overrunning golf courses, beaches, parks, playing fields, and yards [20]. A chemical repellant, methiocarb, has been applied to grass to prevent geese from grazing some of these areas [5]. The methiocarb makes the geese sick but so far has not proved fatal, although the toxic effects are still under investigation. Canada geese have been killed in great numbers (more than 200) from the application of the pesticide parathion in Texas [10]. Golden and bald eagles (Aquila chrysaetos; Haliaeetus leucocephalus) have been seen feeding on parathion-killed carcasses. Parathion is widely used near Canada geese wintering grounds in Texas. Crop depredation from grazing Canada geese is a problem in the eastern states. Seeding rates of winter wheat can be increased by 34 to 68 kg/ha to compensate for reduced stem densities [9].


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Branta canadensis
DIRECT FIRE EFFECTS ON ANIMALS : Fires during the nesting could probably damage Canada goose nests. HABITAT RELATED FIRE EFFECTS : No specific information on Canada goose behavior or activity following fire has been found. However, fire is used frequently to rejuvenate southern marshes for waterfowl [12]. In Louisiana late winter marsh fires provide early spring food for geese when they need it the most. Shallow marshes and low ridges can be burned in early fall to provide winter foods that continue to grow throughout the winter [12]. For more specific information about the effects of fire on plants important to Canada geese consult this database under the genera Phragmites, Scirpus, Carex, and Typha. FIRE USE : Techniques for establishing grasslands for waterfowl in the prairie pothole region have been described [7]. Fires are also recommended in these areas to rejuvenate cool- and warm-season grasses. In central North Dakota cool-season natives should be burned from late March to mid-May or from mid-August to mid-September. Warm-season natives should be burned from mid-May to mid-June [7]. Fire can also be used to maintain grass/forb communities important to geese and prevent the succession to shrub communities [18]. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Branta canadensis
REFERENCES : 1. Bellrose, Frank C. 1980. Ducks, geese and swans of North America. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books. 3rd ed. 540 p. [19802] 2. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434] 3. Campbell, Bruce H. 1990. Factors affecting the nesting success of dusky Canada geese, B. c. occidentalis, on the Copper River Delta, Alaska. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 104(4): 567-574. [19904] 4. Cooper, James A. 1978. The history and breeding biology of the Canada geese of Marshy Point, Manitoba. Wildlife Monographs No. 61. Washington, DC: The Wildlife Society. 87 p. [18122] 5. Conover, Michael R. 1985. Alleviating nuisance Canada goose problems through methicarb-induced aversive conditioning. Journal of Wildlife Management. 49(3): 631-636. [19905] 6. Craven, Scott R. 1984. Fall food habits of Canada geese in Wisconsin. Journal of Wildlife Management. 48(1): 169-173. [19906] 7. Duebbert, Harold F.; Jacobson, Erling T.; Higgins, Kenneth F.; Podoll, Erling B. 1981. Establishment of seeded grasslands for wildlife habitat in the praire pothole region. Special Scientific Report-Wildlife No. 234. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 21 p. [5740] 8. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905] 9. Flegler, Earl J, Jr.; Prince, Harold H.; Johnson, Wilbur C. 1987. Effects of grazing by Canada geese on winter wheat yield. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 15: 402-405. [19907] 10. Flickinger, E. L.; Juenger, G.; Roffe, T. J.; [and others]. 1991. Poisoning of Canada geese in Texas by parathion sprayed for control of Russian wheat aphid. Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 27(2): 265-268. [19908] 11. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998] 12. Givens, Lawrence S. 1962. Use of fire on southeastern wildlife refuges. In: Proceedings, 1st annual Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1962 March 1-2; Tallahassee, FL. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 121-126. [19344] 13. Hanson, W. C.; Eberhardt, L. L. 1971. A Columbia River Canada goose population, 1950-1970. Wildlife Monographs No. 28. Washington, DC: The Wildlife Society. 61 p. [18164] 14. Johnsgard, Paul A. 1975. Waterfowl of North America. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. 575 p. [19985] 15. Krohn, W. B.; Bizeau, E. G. 1980. The Rocky Mountain population of the western Canada goose: its distribution, habitats and management. Special Scientific Report 229. Washington, DC: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 93 p. [19909] 16. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384] 17. Madge, Steve; Burn, Hilary. 1988. Waterfowl: An indentification guide to the ducks, geese and swans of the world. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. 298 p. [20029] 18. Miller, Howard A. 1963. Use of fire in wildlife management. In: Proceedings, 2d annual Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1963 March 14-15; Tallahassee, FL. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 19-30. [17921] 19. Petersen, Margaret R. 1990. Nest-site selection by emperor geese and cackling Canada geese. Wilson Bulletin. 102)3_: 413-426. [19910] 20. Howard, R.; Moore, Alick. 1980. A complete checklist of the birds of the world. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 701 p. [24537] 21. U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 2013. Endangered Species Program, [Online]. Available: [86564] 22. Washington Department of Wildlife. 1994. Species of special concern in Washington - state and federal status. Olympia, WA: Washington Department of Wildlife. 41 p. [25414]

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