Canada Geese

JMcCombie

Joined June 2012

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Artist's Description

The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is a goose with a black head and neck, white patches on the face, and a brownish-gray body. Native to arctic and temperate regions of North America, it is occasionally found in northern Europe, and has been introduced to other temperate regions.
The black head and neck with a white “chinstrap” distinguish the Canada Goose from all other goose species, with the exception of the Barnacle Goose, but the latter has a black breast, and also grey, rather than brownish, body plumage. There are seven subspecies of this bird, of varying sizes and plumage details, but all are recognizable as Canada Geese. Some of the smaller races can be hard to distinguish from the Cackling Goose, which slightly overlap in mass. However, the Cackling Goose is usually considerably smaller, scarcely larger than a Mallard with a much shorter neck and smaller bill.
This species ranges from 75 to 110 cm (30 to 43 in) in length and has a 127–185 cm (50–73 in) wingspan. The male usually weighs 3.2–6.5 kg (7.1–14 lb), and can be very aggressive in defending territory. The female looks virtually identical but is slightly lighter at 2.5–5.5 kg (5.5–12 lb), generally 10% smaller in linear dimensions than its male counterpart, and has a different honk. Among standard measurements, the wing chord can range from 39 to 55 cm (15 to 22 in), the tarsus can range from 6.9 to 10.6 cm (2.7 to 4.2 in) and the bill can range from 4.1 to 6.8 cm (1.6 to 2.7 in). The largest subspecies is the B. c. maxima, or the “Giant Canada Goose”, and the smallest (with the separation of the Cackling Goose group) is B. c. parvipes, or the “Lesser Canada Goose”. An exceptionally large male of race B. c. maxima, which rarely exceed 8 kg (18 lb), weighed 10.9 kg (24 lb) and had a wingspan of 2.24 m (7.3 ft). This specimen is the largest wild goose ever recorded of any species. The life span in the wild of geese that survive to adulthood ranges 10–24 years.
During the second year of their lives, Canada Geese find a mate. They are monogamous, and most couples stay together all of their lives. If one dies, the other may find a new mate. The female lays from 2–9 eggs but an average of five and both parents protect the nest while the eggs incubate, but the female spends more time at the nest than the male.
The incubation period, in which the female incubates while the male remains nearby, lasts for 24–28 days after laying. As the annual summer molt also takes place during the breeding season, the adults lose their flight feathers for 20–40 days, regaining flight at about the same time as their goslings start to fly.
Adult geese are often seen leading their goslings in a line, usually with one parent at the front, and the other at the back. While protecting their goslings, parents often violently chase away nearby creatures, from small blackbirds to lone humans that approach, after warning them by giving off a hissing sound and will then attack with bites and slaps of the wings if the threat does not retreat or has seized a gosling. Most of the species that prey on eggs will also take a gosling. Although parents are hostile to unfamiliar geese, they may form groups of a number of goslings and a few adults, called crèches.
The offspring enter the fledging stage any time from 6 to 9 weeks of age. They do not leave their parents until after the spring migration, when they return to their birthplace. Once they reach adulthood, Canada Geese are rarely preyed on, but (beyond humans) are taken by Coyotes, Gray Wolves, Snowy Owls, Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles.

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