The Canada Goose

Only tyros would be caught describing Canadian Geese.  We have no idea where the individual birds may hale from – but the breed is Canada geese.  (And you can make a new birder feel knowledgeable by inviting a correction.)  

Sinuous and delicate

This magnificent fowl (big , robust and powerful) is ubiquitous in North America, and oft maligned for its surly nature and abundant droppings.  It hangs out at fresh water and saline, bays, marshes, and fields, and feeds anywhere within a short flight of the water.  In Central Park you may see them roaming the ball fields when not otherwise in use.  They will graze on the land or dabble in the water.

Stretching the wing
These birds are engineered for long flights

They fly distances in a classic V formation, often announcing their passage with a good deal of honking; they often mark the changing seasons by their migration flights. 

Heading south

When nesting, they may lay as few as 2 and as many as 11 eggs at a time; the lady geese do the incubation but the males keeps guard.  The goslings are encouraged to leave the nest after 1 or 2 days and promptly feed themselves.  They will fly after about 8 weeks, taking to the air a bit earlier if of a smaller strain and later if larger. They can be seen in classic formation swimming in a line with the parents as bookends and the goslings on a clothes line.

Getting the goslings to swim

They may mate for life.  The male provides defenses of house and spouse with various displays and hissing noises. The nest is normally chosen by the female to provide decent visibility – on raised ground or sometimes on a cliff.  They tend to breed in Canada but the rest of the year can be found throughout the US, if a bit more sparsely in the most southern climes. 

On the frozen reservoir

Not too long ago, Canada geese were separated into two almost indistinguishable species, the Canada goose and the cackling goose.  (There is no need to make a distinction unless among hard core duck aficionados, and then there may be debate.) 

Keep infants from wandering among a grazing flock; they can be obstreperous. 

Opening photo: Canadian Geese grazing in Central Park

All photos by Fred R. Cohen. See more of his work on his website.

About Fred R. Cohen (35 Articles)
Fred Cohen, a NYC-based photographer, has been taking pictures for over four decades. His work has been published by Harry N. Abrams, Time Magazine and The New York Times. He does commissioned work and sells images from his extensive library. You can see his more casual work on face book and are welcome to visit his website at