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Canada Goose -
Native Species Global Rank
Agency Status USFWS
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Individuals vary in size geographically with the smallest individuals in the north; average length is 64 to 117 cm. Individuals have a black head and a neck marked with a broad white chin strap extending from ear to ear, plain large dark wings, and a black tail with a U-shaped white band on the rump.
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see
Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
The Canada Goose differs from the Brant (
Branta bernicla) in having a broad white chin strap rather than a small whitish patch on either side of the neck. It differs from the Barnacle Goose ( Branta leucopsis) by the lack of a mostly white face and by having plain dark wings instead of blue-gray upperparts barred with black.
Western Hemisphere Range
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
SUMMER (Feb 16 - Dec 14)
Direct Evidence of Breeding
Indirect Evidence of Breeding
No Evidence of Breeding
WINTER (Dec 15 - Feb 15)
Not Regularly Observed
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
In the Bozeman area, migration occurs from February 20 to April 15 and from October 15 to January 1, with peaks on March 15 and November 20 statewide (Skaar 1969).
On the lower Yellowstone River, broods are reared on island grasslands and meadows along the river. Dense brush is used when not feeding. In north-central Montana, Canada Geese nested on islands 76%, in sagebrush 6%, in meadows 18%, and on reservoirs of 3.7 to 33.3 acres (McCarthy 1973).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system,
point observations were associated with that system.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at:
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.
Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
On the lower Yellowstone River, birds used winter wheat fields in early fall, corn fields in mid-fall, and a variety of fields and crops in late fall.
Gosling mortality (to flight stage) was 20 to 25% on Flathead Lake, less than 10% on Flathead River, and 0% at Ninepipe. At Freezeout Lake, they preferred to nest on islands more than 200 feet from shore and in more than 10 feet of water.
In the Flathead Valley, eggs are laid from March 10 to April 25; hatching occurs from April 15 to May 25. Clutch size averages 5.35 (range 2 to 10). The average number of hatchlings was 3.53 in 1953 and 2.22 in 1954. Nesting success was 82.5% in 1953 and 60.3% in 1954.
Literature Cited Above
Legend: View Online Publication Marks, J.S., P. Hendricks, and D. Casey. 2016. Birds of Montana. Arrington, VA. Buteo Books. 659 pages. McCarthy, J.J. 1973. Response of nesting Canada geese (Branta canadensis) to islands in stockdams in northcentral Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 36 p. Skaar, P.D. 1969. Birds of the Bozeman latilong: a compilation of data concerning the birds which occur between 45 and 46 N. latitude and 111 and 112 W. longitude, with current lists for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, impinging Montana counties and Yellowstone National Park. Bozeman, MT. 132 p. Additional References
Legend: View Online Publication Do you know of a citation we're missing? [WWPC] Washington Water Power Company. 1995. 1994 wildlife report Noxon Rapids and Cabinet Gorge Reservoirs. Washington Water Power Company. Spokane, WA. American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1998. Check-list of North American birds, 7th edition. American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C. 829 p. Ankney, C. D. 1996. An embarrassment of riches: Too many geese. Journal of Wildlife Management 60(2):217-223. Atwater, M.G. 1958. A two-year study of renesting in Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) in Phillips County, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 23 p. Atwater, M.G. 1959. A study of renesting in Canada Geese in Montana. The Journal of Wildlife Management 23(1):91-97. Ball, I. J. 1981. Breeding biology and management of Canada Geese in the Flathead Valley. Project report to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and Bureau of Indian Affairs, Pablo, Montana. Ball, I. J. 1983. Management plan for Canada geese on tribal lands in the Flathead Valley. Report to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Montana Coop. WildI. Res: Unit, Missoula. 9 pp. Ball, I.J., E.L. Bowhay, and C.F. Yocom. 1981. Ecology and management of the western Canada Goose. Washington Dept. of Game Biological Bulletin No. 17; 67 pp. Barraclough, M. E. 1954. Biology of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis moffitti) in the Flathead Valley of Montana. M.S. thesis, University of Montana, Missoula. Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. 2017. Pocket Guide to Northern Prairie Birds. Brighton, CO: Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. 98 p. Bramblett, R.G., and A.V. Zale. 2002. Montana Prairie Riparian Native Species Report. Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, Montana State University - Bozeman. Cameron, E. S. 1907. The birds of Custer and Dawson counties, Montana. Auk 24(3): 241-270. Camp Dresser & McKee, Inc., 1990, Stillwater Chromite Project Baseline Data Report: Hydrology and Wildlife Monitoring, Hydrology - November 1988 through November 1989, Wildlife - November 1988 through February 1990. June 30, 1990 Carlsen, T. and R. Northrup. 1992. Canyon Ferry Wildlife Management Area Final Draft Management Plan. March 1992. Carlsen, T. L., R. L. Eng, D. A. Childress, and J. T. Herbert. 1990. Response by a Canada goose population to a high density of man-made nesting islands. Trans. IUGB Congress, Trondheim, Norway. 19(2):477-482. Carlsen, T.L. 1984. Waterfowl nesting on islands in two ponds of the Canyon Ferry Wildlife Management Area, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 91 p. Casey, D. 2005. Rocky Mountain Front avian inventory. Final report. Prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy by the American Bird Conservancy, Kalispell, Montana. Casey, D. and M. Wood 1984. Effects of water levels on productivity of Canada Geese in the northern Flathead Valley. Montana Fish Wildl. and Parks Annual Report, Bonneville Power Administration Project, No. 33-498. 43 pp. Casey, D., and M. Wood. 1987. Effects of water level fluctuations on productivity of Canada Geese in the northern Flathead Valley. Final report. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Kalispell. Childress, D.A. 1971. Canada goose production and water level relationships on the Madison River, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 35 p. Claar, J., I. J. Ball, D. Mackey, and S. Gregory. 1984. Canada goose nesting and brood habitat use related to water level fluctuations of Flathead River. P. 63 In A. Dood, comp., Agriculture and Wildlife. Proc. Mont. Chapt., The Wildt. Soc., Butte. 85 pp. Confluence Consulting Inc. 2010. Montana Department of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports (various sites). MDT Helena, MT. Confluence Consulting Inc. 2011. Montana Department of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports (various sites). MDT Helena, MT. Confluence Consulting Inc. 2012. Montana Department of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports (various sites). MDT Helena, MT. Confluence Consulting Inc. 2013. Montana Department of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports (various sites). MDT Helena, MT. Cornely, J.E. 1982. Waterfowl production at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 1942-1980. Transactions of the 47th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference. pp 559-571. Craighead, J. J., and D. S. Stockstad. 1961. Evaluating the use of aerial nesting platforms by Canada Geese. Journal of Wildlife Management 25:363-372. Craighead, J. J., and D. S. Stockstad. 1964. Breeding age of Canada Geese. Journal of Wildlife Management 28:57-64. Craighead, J., and F. Craighead. 1957. Bright dyes reveal secrets of Canada geese. National Geographic, pp. 817-832. Craighead, J.J., and D.S. Stockstad. 1956. Measuring hunting pressure on Canada geese in the Flathead Valley. Trans. N. Am. Wildl. Conf. 21:210-238. Decker Coal Co., 1981, Wildlife survey. July 7, 1981. In North Decker 5-Year Permit Application. Vol. III. Rule 26.4.304(12-14). Decker Coal Company., 1992, Decker Coal Company East Pit Permit. Vol. 7. Section 9 - Wildlife. Section 10 - AVF and Prime Farmland. July 1992. Denson, H.S. 1987. Ecology of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) at Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 87 p. Dickson, D.C. 1991. Systematic wildlife observations on the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Missoula, MT. 14 pp. plus appendices and photographs. ECON, Inc. (Ecological Consulting Service), Helena, MT., 1975, Colstrip 10 x 20 Area wildlife and wildlife habitat annual monitoring report, 1975. Proj. 71-23-A. December 31, 1975. ECON, Inc. 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[Western Technology and Engineering], Helena, MT., 1981, Terrestrial wildlife reconnaissance. March 1981. Farmer, Patrick J., Western Technology & Eng., Inc., Helena, MT., 1996, Bald eagle nesting survey in the vicinity of the proposed McDonald Project. June 1996. Flath, D. L. 1970. Reproductive success of Canada geese in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana. M.S. thesis. University of Montana, Missoula. 61 pp. Flath, D. L. 1972. Canada goose-osprey interactions. Auk 89:446-447. Geis, M. B. 1956. Productivity of Canada Geese in the Flathead Valley, Montana.Journal of Wildlife Management 20:409-420. Gillihan, SW. and T. VerCauteren. 2015. Pocket Guide to Prairie Birds. Brighton, CO: Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. 91 p. Gniadek, S. 1983. Southwest Glendive Wildlife Baseline Inventory. Miles City, Mont: Bureau of Land Management, Miles City District Office. 56 pp with appendices. Goodell, J. 2012. Morse Land Company Breeding Bird Inventory And Analysis. High Desert Museum. Bend, OR. 42 pp + Appendices. Gregory, S. K., and D. L. Mackey. 1984. Impacts of water level on breeding Canada geese and the methodology for mitigation and enhancement in the Flathead drainage. Annual Report 1983. U.S. Department of Energy, DOE-BP-203. 98 pp. Gregory, S. K., D. L. Mackey, J. J. Claar, and I. J. Ball. 1984. Impacts of water levels on breeding Canada geese and the methodology for mitigation and enhancement in the Flathead drainage. 1983 Annual Report, DOE/BP-10062-2, Bonneville Power Admin., Portland, Oregon. 73 pp. Gregory, S. K., W. C. Matthews, D. L. Mackey, I. J. Ball and J. J. Carr. 1986. Impacts of water levels on breeding Canada geese and the methodology for mitigation and enhancement in the Flathead drainage. Pp 304-305 in: Issues and Technology in the Management of Impacted Western Wildlife. Thorne Ecological Institute, Boulder, CO. Hale, K.M. 2007. Investigations of the West Nile virus transmission cycle at Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Montana, 2005-2006. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 74 p. Hamilton, A. 1978. Spring, summer and fall use of stockponds by Canada geese in southeastern Montana. State of Montana Project No. W-120-R-8,9. 64 pp. Hamilton, A.L. 1978. Spring, summer, and fall use of stockponds by Canada geese in southeastern Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 65 p. Hays, R., R.L. Eng, and C.V. Davis (preparers). 1984. A list of Montana birds. Helena, MT: MT Dept. of Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Hendricks, P. and M. Roedel. 2001. A faunal survey of the Centennial Valley Sandhills, Beaverhead County, Montana. Report to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, MT. 44 p. Hildebrand, B. D. 1979. Habitat requirements of molting Canada Geese at Lima Reservoir, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 79 p. Hinz, T. 1981. The ecology of Canada geese on the lower Yellowstone River, Montana. Pp. 62-66 in Management of riparian ecosystems. Proc., Montana Chapter, The Wildlife Society, Great Falls. 91 pp. Hinz, T.C. 1974. Seasonal activity, numbers, and distribution of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) in the lower Yellowstone Valley, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 88 p. Hook, D.L. 1973. Production and habitat use by Canada geese at Freezout Lake, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 53 p. Johnsgard, P.A. 1975. Waterfowl of North America. Indiana University Press, Bloomington. Johnsgard, P.A. 1992. Birds of the Rocky Mountains with particular reference to national parks in the northern Rocky Mountain region. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. xi + 504 pp. Joslin, Gayle, and Heidi B. Youmans. 1999. Effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain wildlife: a review for Montana. [Montana]: Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society. Knopf, F.L. 1986. Changing landscapes and the cosmopolitism of the eastern Colorado avifauna. Wildlife Society Bulletin 14(2):132-142. Korschgen, C.E., and R.B. Dahlgren. 1992. Human disturbances of waterfowl: causes, effects, and management. Ch. 13.2.15 In: Waterfowl Management Handbook. Fish and Wildlife Service Leaflet. 8 p. Kosterman, M.K., J.R. Squires, J.D. Holbrook, D.H. Pletscher, and M. Hebblewhite. 2018. Forest structure provides the income for reproductive success in a southern population of Canada Lynx. Ecological Applications 28(4):1032-1043. Krohn, W.B. and E.G. Bizeau. 1980. The Rocky Mountain population of the western Canada goose: its distribution, habitats, and management. USFWS Spec. Sci. Rep. Wildl. 229:1-93. Lambing, J. H., D. A. Nimick, J. R. Knapton, and D. U. Palawski. 1994. 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Report to the Bureau of LandManagement, Havre Field Station, Havre, Montana. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, MT. 16pp.plus appendices. Lenard, S., J. Carlson, J. Ellis, C. Jones, and C. Tilly. 2003. P. D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution, 6th edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, MT. 144 pp. Lokemoen, J.T. 1993. Increasing waterfowl nesting success on islands and peninsulas. Ch. 13.2.11 In: Waterfowl Management Handbook. Fish and Wildlife Service Leaflet. 7 p. Lokemoen, J.T., and R.O. Woodward. 1992. Nesting waterfowl and water birds on natural islands in the Dakotas and Montana. Wildlife Society Bulletin 20:163-171. Lorang, K.D. 1979. Waterfowl and hunter use of Freezeout Lake Game Management Area. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 79 p. Mackey, D. L., W. C. Matthews, Jr. and I. J. Ball. 1988. Elevated nest structures for Canada geese. Wildlife Society Bulletin 16(4):362-367. Mackey, D. L., W. C. Matthews, Jr., and S. K. Gregory. 1985. 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Western Energy Co., Colstrip, MT., 1981, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: Annual Wildlife Report, 1981. Wetlands West, Inc., Bozeman, MT., and Land & Water Consulting, Inc., Missoula, MT., 2002, Montana Dept. of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Report, Year 2001: Roundup Wetland, Roundup, Montana. Proj. No. 130091.031. July 2002. In 2001 Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports, Vol. II. White, C.M., N.J. Van Lanen, D.C. Pavlacky Jr., J.A. Blakesley, R.A. Sparks, J.M.Stenger, J.A. Rehm-Lorber, M.F. McLaren, F. Cardone, J.J. Birek and D.J. Hanni. 2011. Integrated monitoring of bird conservation regions (IMBCR): 2010 Annual Report. Brighton, CO: Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory. 387 p. Witt, D., and L. Williamson. 1956. A production study of Canada geese on Nelson Reservoir, Phillips County, Montana. Montana Fish and Game Dept. P-R Quarterly Rep., July-September: 11-30. Zackheim, K. 1973. Exhibit H: Wildlife Study. In Ash Grove Cement Co. files. 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