Branta canadensis (Canada goose)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Branta canadensis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Preferred Common Name
- Canada goose
Other Scientific Names
- Anas canadensis Linnaeus, 1758
International Common Names
- English: greater Canada goose
Local Common Names
- Czech Republic: berneska velka
- Denmark: canadagas
- Estonia: kanada lagle
- Finland: kanadanhanhi
- France: bernache du Canada
- Germany: Kanadagans
- Hungary: kanadai lud
- Iceland: kanadagaes
- Ireland: ge cheanadach
- Italy: oca del Canada
- Latvia: kanada zoss
- Lithuania: kanadine bernikle
- Netherlands: canadese gans
- Norway: kanadagas
- Poland: bernikla kanadyjska
- Portugal: ganso do Canada
- Russian Federation: kanadskaja kazarka
- Spain: barnacla canadiense
- Sweden: kanadagas
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
B. canadensis is a large goose species that has been widely introduced as an ornamental species and for hunting purposes. It has established very large and rapidly expanding self-sustaining populations in many parts of Europe and is also well established in New Zealand. It forms large gatherings that have little fear of man and cause nuisance and health hazards on amenity grasslands and economic damage on farmland. It has been involved in a number of air strikes. It is aggressive towards native wildfowl and may compete with them for resources (Watola et al., 1996). Hybrids have been recorded with a range of native and non-native wildfowl (Appleton, 2010).
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Aves
- Order: Anseriformes
- Family: Anatidae
- Genus: Branta
- Species: Branta canadensis
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The taxonomy of the Canada goose is highly complex. As many as five species and 186 subspecies have been claimed (Hanson, 1997). Around a dozen races are widely recognised but several of these intergrade and, perhaps before the natural geographical variation of this species has been fully understood, the pattern is being eroded by natural range expansions and by translocation within the natural range (Kear, 2005). A decision has been taken recently by the American and British authorities to divide the known races between two species – Branta canadensis and the cackling goose Branta hutchinsii – but further taxonomic refinements may follow from ongoing research (Banks et al., 2004; Sangster et al., 2005). Introduced populations of B. canadensis have often had multiple origins and represent an amalgam of several races, sometimes including races now assigned to B. hutchinsii. The split is observed here. As far as possible, this account refers to canadensis only, although much of the literature from which it is drawn treats canadensis and hutchinsii together under canadensis.
DescriptionTop of page
B. canadensis in its non-native range is a large goose with a dark brown body, black head and neck and white cheeks. Its honking call is very loud and easily recognised. Within the natural range, some races are no larger than the snow goose Anser caerulescens (Chen caerulescens) and there is considerable variation in plumage tones. For more details, see for example Kear (2005).
DistributionTop of page
There is no systematic information on where B. canadensis is held in captivity. Partly in consequence, information is also likely to be poor on where isolated escapes or releases have occurred. Gabuzov (1990) describes plans at that time for releases for hunting near the Russian Caspian Sea and further east in Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, but it is not known whether such releases were ever made.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 17 Dec 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Japan||Present, Few occurrences|
|North Korea||Present, Few occurrences|
|South Korea||Present, Few occurrences|
|Åland Islands||Present||Introduced||2008||Original location reported: Aland Islands|
|Austria||Present, Localized||Introduced||1979||Circa 5 breeding pairs|
|Belgium||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Breeds; First reported: 1970s|
|Bulgaria||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced|
|Czechia||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced|
|Denmark||Present, Localized||Introduced||Breeds; First reported: 1930s|
|Estonia||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced|
|Faroe Islands||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||UK ring recoveries|
|Finland||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Breeds; First reported: 1960s|
|France||Present, Localized||Introduced||First reported: 1990s|
|Germany||Present, Widespread||Introduced||1884||25000-35000 individuals in winter|
|Iceland||Present, Few occurrences||Some introduced birds may also occur|
|Ireland||Present, Localized||Introduced||Vagrants from native populations also occur; First reported: 1800s|
|Italy||Present, Localized||Introduced||1969||1-2 breeding pairs|
|Liechtenstein||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced|
|Lithuania||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced|
|Luxembourg||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||2000|
|Poland||Present, Localized||Introduced||2004||Circa 3 breeding pairs|
|Portugal||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced|
|-Northern Russia||Present, Localized||Introduced||Breeds|
|-Southern Russia||Present, Localized||Introduced||Sea of Azov; First reported: 1990s|
|-Western Siberia||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||UK ring recovery from River Ob|
|Slovakia||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced|
|Slovenia||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced|
|Spain||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced|
|Svalbard and Jan Mayen||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|Switzerland||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced|
|United Kingdom||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Vagrants from native populations also occur|
|Bahamas||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|Bermuda||Present, Few occurrences|
|-British Columbia||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-New Brunswick||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-Newfoundland and Labrador||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-Northwest Territories||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-Nova Scotia||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-Prince Edward Island||Present, Widespread||Native|
|Cayman Islands||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|Cuba||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|Dominican Republic||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|Greenland||Present, Localized||Native||Breeds in west Greenland|
|Jamaica||Present, Few occurrences|
|Puerto Rico||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|Saint Pierre and Miquelon||Present||Native|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|United States||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-Hawaii||Present, Few occurrences||Native||Also a failed introduction attempt|
|-New Hampshire||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-New Jersey||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-New Mexico||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-New York||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-North Carolina||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-North Dakota||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-Rhode Island||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-South Carolina||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-South Dakota||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-West Virginia||Present, Widespread||Native|
|Australia||Absent, Formerly present||First reported: 1912-1920|
|-Western Australia||Absent, Formerly present||First reported: 1912-1920|
|Kiribati||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|Marshall Islands||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|New Zealand||Present, Localized||Introduced||1876||Breeds|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
Whereas early introductions were for ornamental or sentimental reasons, those during the twentieth century were mainly for hunting purposes. At a country level within Europe, pathways were a combination of importation from neighbouring countries, local unintentional escapes from zoos and collections, and natural dispersal across national borders. Translocations within the native range in Canada and the USA have resulted in a massive expansion of urbanised, mainly resident populations and have been largely responsible for a fourfold increase in population in North America between 1970 and 2008 (Dolbeer and Seubert, 2009).
Vagrant individuals from North America occur regularly in Iceland, as do birds originating from elsewhere in Europe. Occasional individuals from North America also occur in the UK and Ireland but the status of these birds is not fully understood. In these countries, therefore, B. canadensis could be considered to be both native and introduced.
IntroductionsTop of page
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
The introductions that have been made so far have shown the high potential of B. canadensis to establish invasive naturalised populations. There is a severe risk that, if any new releases are made in eastern Europe and western Asia, these could pose new and severe threats to globally important wetlands in those areas such as Lake Issyk-Kul, and to endangered species such as the red-breasted goose B. ruficollis.
HabitatTop of page
B. canadensis requires a refuge on open water and suitable grazing on grassland or tilled land. It is adaptable enough to occur anywhere these basic requirements are met, but usually avoids salt or brackish water.
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Wetlands||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Cold lands / tundra||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Freshwater||Irrigation channels||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Freshwater||Rivers / streams||Principal habitat||Natural|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
The wide variability in size and plumage within this species is likely to have some genetic basis as well as environmental causes, but it is insufficient to prevent the remixing of the races where they are brought into contact by translocations and introductions.
ClimateTop of page
|BS - Steppe climate||Tolerated||> 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation|
|BW - Desert climate||Tolerated||< 430mm annual precipitation|
|Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year|
|Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers|
|Ds - Continental climate with dry summer||Preferred||Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)|
|ET - Tundra climate||Preferred||Tundra climate (Average temp. of warmest month < 10°C and > 0°C)|
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Accidental introduction of B. canadensis will have occurred wherever the species is kept in captivity, as occasional individuals have escaped from wildfowl collections, or as young hatched within the collection but left unpinioned have dispersed away.
Pathway CausesTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Cultural/amenity||Positive and negative|
ImpactTop of page
Flocks of B. canadensis may damage plants by overgrazing or trampling. They can cause economic as well as physical damage to crop plants such as young cereals, and can severely damage natural vegetation along shorelines and in shallow water by heavy grazing (NOBANIS, 2008).
Economic ImpactTop of page
B. canadensis, with a body mass of around 4.2 kg, are a high risk to aircraft and one which is increasing rapidly alongside the growth in their population, their increasing adaptation to urbanised sites such as the vicinity of airports and the trend towards quieter aircraft engines (Dolbeer, 2009; Dolbeer and Seubert, 2009). The insurance industry places the annual cost of air strikes in North America at US $4.5 billion (NOBANIS, 2008). The cost of economic damage to farmland crops through grazing and trampling is rarely quantified, but in Germany it has been estimated at DM 1–3 million (Gebhardt, 1996). Canada geese can also damage riverbanks by creating pathways that speed erosion.
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Habitat
B. canadensis resting and roosting on open water put a heavy nutrient and bacterial load into lakes and small ponds through the deposition of droppings. This may lead to eutrophication of still waters (Watola et al., 1996).
Impact on Biodiversity
Introduced B. canadensis can be aggressive towards other wildfowl and may sometimes exclude them from feeding or breeding opportunities (Andersson et al., 1999). There are close similarities in genetic make-up between Branta and Anser geese and other wildfowl, and B. canadensis has hybridised with a wide range of other species in captive situations. Although they may hybridise less frequently in the wild state, hybrids are commonly seen, especially with wild-type or domestic-type greylags Anser anser.
Social ImpactTop of page
Loss of human life through air strikes has a stark and fundamental social impact that puts B. canadensis into a class almost of its own among bird species. B. canadensis can produce up to 0.7 kg of faecal matter per day, which may be deposited in urban parks, lakes used for swimming, or drinking-water reservoirs, thus causing unpleasant fouling and potential hazards to public health; pathogens such as Escherichia coli and Cryptosporidium parvum have been identified in B. canadensis droppings (NOBANIS, 2008). The species is susceptible to highly pathogenic avian influenza (Pasick et al., 2007). Dead specimens in northern Europe have tested positive for avian influenza and could be considered relevant to the spread of forms of this disease that can infect humans.
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Highly mobile locally
- Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
- Long lived
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has high genetic variability
- Altered trophic level
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Infrastructure damage
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts human health
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Pest and disease transmission
- Interaction with other invasive species
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
B. canadensis is hunted widely in North America and in Sweden and some other parts of Europe, thereby providing some economic and/or social benefits. It is not legal quarry in the Netherlands or Belgium.
Uses ListTop of page
- Sport (hunting, shooting, fishing, racing)
Human food and beverage
- Meat/fat/offal/blood/bone (whole, cut, fresh, frozen, canned, cured, processed or smoked)
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
Most European countries and North American states and provinces have laws intended to control trade in non-native species and the circumstances in which they can be released. These should cover non-native geese, but may either exclude translocations within a country or trading zone or be difficult or impossible to enforce where no import/export controls apply.
There is clearly a need for increasing public awareness of the dangers of introducing non-native geese to new areas and of translocating them within areas where they already occur.
Shooting and scaring are the main means of discouraging B. canadensis from causing economic damage on farmland and near airports. Shooting does not appear to be helpful in reducing population sizes, although it may help to slow population growth in some regions. In Sweden, birds may be shot outside the open season to prevent crop damage or danger to public health (NOBANIS, 2008). The EU Birds Directive currently protects B. canadensis from hunting during the breeding season, when shooting could be most effective for population control. Prevention of hatching by pricking eggs or coating them with paraffin is widely practised in the UK and may, in combination with shooting, be slowing the growth of the population.
Extensive translocations of introduced birds in the UK were undertaken during the 1950s and 1960s away from areas where agricultural damage was becoming apparent, but resulted only in the formation of new subpopulations and a massive boost to the UK population as a whole (Lever, 2005). In North America, resident urbanised geese caught during their flightless stage were formerly translocated, until it was realised that this only exacerbated the problem.
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
Further and more detailed information is needed on the impacts of B. canadensis, to strengthen the case for control measures and to discourage further introductions and translocations.
ReferencesTop of page
Andersson A; Madsen J; Mooji J; Reitan O, 1999. Canada goose Branta canadensis: Fennoscandia/continental Europe. In: Goose populations of the western Palearctic: a review of status and distribution [ed. by Madsen J, Cracknell G, Fox T]. Wageningen, Netherlands: Wetlands International, 236-245. [Wetlands International Publ. No. 48.]
Austin GE; Belman PJ; McMeeking J, 2002. Canada goose Branta canadensis. In: The Migration Atlas: movements of the birds of Britain and Ireland [ed. by Wernham CV, Toms MP, Marchant JH, Clark JA, Siriwardena GM, Baillie SR]. London, UK: T. & A.D. Poyser, 169-171.
Banks AN; Wright LJ; Maclean IMD; Hann C; Rehfisch MM, 2008. Review of the status of introduced non-native waterbird species in the area of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement: 2007 update. Review of the status of introduced non-native waterbird species in the area of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement: 2007 update. Thetford, UK: British Trust for Ornithology, unpaginated. [BTO Research Report 489.]
Banks RC; Cicero C; Dunn JL; Kratter AW; Rasmussen PC; Remsen Jr JV; Rising JD; Stotz DF, 2004. Forty-fifth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds. Auk, 121:985-995.
BirdLife International, 2009. Species factsheet: Branta canadensis. Species factsheet: Branta canadensis. unpaginated. http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=384&m=0
Blair MJ; McKay H; Musgrove AJ; Rehfisch MM, 2000. Review of the status of introduced non-native waterbird species in the agreement area of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement. Review of the status of introduced non-native waterbird species in the agreement area of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement. Thetford, UK: British Trust for Ornithology, unpaginated. [BTO Research Report 229.]
Dolbeer RA; Seubert JL, 2009. Canada goose populations and strikes with civil aircraft: challenging trends for aviation industry. Special report. Canada goose populations and strikes with civil aircraft: challenging trends for aviation industry. Special report. Sandusky, Ohio, USA: US Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services, unpaginated.
Gabuzov OE, 1990. Prospects for the introduction of B. canadensis in the USSR. In: Managing waterfowl populations. Proceedings of an IWRB Symposium, Astrakahn, USSR, 2-5 October 1989 [ed. by Matthews GVT]. 152-153. [IWRB special publication 12.]
Mowbray TB; Ely CR; Sedinger JS; Trost RE, 2002. Canada goose (Branta canadensis). The Birds of North America [ed. by Poole A, Gill F]. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA: The Birds of North America, Inc., unpaginated. http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/682/articles/introduction
Pasick J; Berhane Y; Embury-Hyatt C; Copps J; Kehler H; Handel K; Babiuk S; Hooper-Mcgrevy K; Li Yan; Quynh Mai Le; Song Lien Phuong, 2007. Susceptibility of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) to highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (H5N1). Emerging Infectious Diseases, 13(12):1821-1827. http://www.cdc.gov/eid
Watola G; Allan J; Feare C, 1996. Problems and management of naturalised introduced Canada geese Branta canadensis in Britain. In: The introduction and naturalisation of birds [ed. by Holmes JS, Simons JR]. London, UK: The Stationery Office.
Wilson A, 2003. Identification and range of Canada goose (Branta canadensis) subspecies. Identification and range of Canada goose (Branta canadensis) subspecies. unpaginated. http://www.oceanwanderers.com/CAGO.Subspecies.html
Anon, 1977. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa: the birds of the Western Palearctic. Volume I. Ostrich to ducks. [ed. by Cramp S, Simmons K E L]. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Austin G E, Belman P J, McMeeking J, 2002. Canada goose Branta canadensis. In: The Migration Atlas: movements of the birds of Britain and Ireland. [ed. by Wernham C V, Toms M P, Marchant J H, Clark J A, Siriwardena G M, Baillie S R]. London, UK: T & AD Poyser. 169-171.
Banks A N, Wright L J, Maclean I M D, Hann C, Rehfisch M M, 2008. Review of the status of introduced non-native waterbird species in the area of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement: 2007 update. In: Review of the status of introduced non-native waterbird species in the area of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement: 2007 update, Thetford, UK: British Trust for Ornithology. unpaginated.
Banks R C, Cicero C, Dunn J L, Kratter A W, Rasmussen P C, Remsen J V Jr, Rising J D, Stotz D F, 2004. Forty-fifth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds. Auk. 985-995.
BirdLife International, 2009. Species factsheet: Branta canadensis. In: Species factsheet: Branta canadensis, unpaginated. http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=384&m=0
Blair M J, McKay H, Musgrove A J, Rehfisch M M, 2000. Review of the status of introduced non-native waterbird species in the agreement area of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement. In: Review of the status of introduced non-native waterbird species in the agreement area of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement, Thetford, UK: British Trust for Ornithology. unpaginated.
CABI, Undated. CABI Compendium: Status as determined by CABI editor. Wallingford, UK: CABI
Mowbray T B, Ely C R, Sedinger J S, Trost R E, 2002. Canada goose (Branta canadensis). In: The Birds of North America. [ed. by Poole A, Gill F]. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA: The Birds of North America, Inc. unpaginated. http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/682/articles/introduction
Seebens H, Blackburn T M, Dyer E E, Genovesi P, Hulme P E, Jeschke J M, Pagad S, Pyšek P, Winter M, Arianoutsou M, Bacher S, Blasius B, Brundu G, Capinha C, Celesti-Grapow L, Dawson W, Dullinger S, Fuentes N, Jäger H, Kartesz J, Kenis M, Kreft H, Kühn I, Lenzner B, Liebhold A, Mosena A (et al), 2017. No saturation in the accumulation of alien species worldwide. Nature Communications. 8 (2), 14435. http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms14435
OrganizationsTop of page
World: BirdLife International, Wellbrook Court, Girton Road, Cambridge, CB3 0NA, UK, http://www.birdlife.org
ContributorsTop of page
31/08/09 Original text by:
John Marchant, British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, IP24 2PU, UK
Distribution MapsTop of page
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