The Canada goose is very majestic because of its size, markings, graceful movement, and its well-known devotion to its mate and family. The most identifying mark on the Canada goose is the white cheek patch, or chin strap. Canada geese like to live in wetland habitats, which provide the necessary food, water, shelter, and breeding grounds for them. The family groups stay together until mating season. Large families have dominance over small families.
When snow falls and the lakes and rivers of the north freeze over, the geese are unable to swim or find food. The geese migrate to places where it is warmer and where food is available. Migrating birds usually follow the same path every year. These paths are called routes or flyways. The flyways used by the Canada Goose are the Atlantic flyway (along the east coast of North America), the Mississippi flyway (named after the river), the Central flyway (along the Rocky Mountains) and the Pacific flyway (west of the Rockies).
Families gather together to form flocks. As days get shorter, the geese eat more to form a layer of body fat. Migration begins in late August or early September (depending on how far north they are). A flock travels by day or night. Geese fly in V-shape, often an irregular V-formation, sometimes in lines. Flying in a V-shape requires less energy, birds can fly longer distances. It is easier for others to follow (birds can see what is ahead). One of the larger, stronger birds is the leader and they change leaders during flight to give lead bird a rest. A flock lands to feed and rest at familiar places (marshes, farmers’ fields). Canada Geese spend the winter in southern Canada, the United States and Mexico.
During spring migration they leave at different times, depending how far north they are going, early migrators leave in late January, early February and fly northward following the melting snowline. They stop often to feed and build up strength. Nesting and egg-laying occurs as soon as geese arrive at nesting grounds. If there are other clutches of goslings in the area, they will often group together in flocks called “crèches” and be looked after by all the adults.