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Canada Goose
Photos © Julia Flanagan; George Washington Parkway, Alexandria, VA

Canada Goose
Branta canadensis

A black head and neck with white "chinstrap" distinguish the Canada Goose from all other goose species.  There are seven subspecies of this bird, of varying sizes and plumage details, but all are recognizable as Canada Geese.

The male can be very aggressive in defending territory. Ffemales looks virtually identical but are generally 10% smaller than their male counterparts and have a different honk. The life span in the wild is 10–24 years.

This species is native to North America.  It breeds in Canada and the northern United States in a variety of habitats. Nests are usually located in an elevated area near water such as streams, lakes, ponds and sometimes on a beaver lodge. Its eggs are laid in a shallow depression lined with plant material and down.

Like most geese, the Canada Goose is naturally migratory with a wintering range that covers most of the United States. The calls overhead from large groups of Canada Geese flying in V-shaped formation signal the transitions into spring and autumn.

Contrary to its normal migration routine, large flocks of Canada Geese have established permanent residence in the Chesapeake Bay and in Virginia's James River regions. 

In North America, non-migratory Canada Goose populations have been on the rise. They are frequently found on golf courses, parking lots and urban parks, which would have previously hosted only migratory geese on rare occasions.

Owing to its adaptability to human-altered areas, it has become the most common waterfowl species in North America. In many areas, non-migratory Canada Geese are now regarded as pests. 

Geese have a tendency to attack humans when they feel themselves or their goslings to be threatened. The geese will stand erect, spread their wings, produce a hissing sound and will charge and may then bite or attack with their wings.