Are Canada Geese Migratory or Not?

Photograph by AJ Batac/Flickr Creative Commons

Are Canada Geese Migratory or Not?

It's the time of year that geese migrate. So why are there so many still hanging around?

Brought to you by BirdNote®
Published: 10/21/2013

This story comes to you through a partnership between Audubon and BirdNote, a show that airs daily on public radio stations nationwide.


Written by Frances Wood; revised by Bob Sundstrom

Remember this sound from your childhood? It’s one of our most familiar wild sounds, the calls of Canada Geese flying high overhead in long, gangly V-formation. And it’s one of our most enduring emblems of the change of seasons.

October is the peak month in the southward migration of Canada geese, geese that bred in summer in Canada and Alaska. “But,” you ask, “aren’t there Canada Geese around all through the year, on park lawns and golf courses?” Where do these geese fit into the picture?

It’s complicated. The birds we think of as “Canada Geese”--brown geese with a white chinstrap marking--actually comprise a whole range of geographic populations. Some are larger, some smaller, and most subgroups have distinct breeding ranges north of the U.S. border. However, some Canada geese are now largely non-migratory, much to the chagrin of golfers and others. Many of the geese that now stay year ‘round are the descendants of birds introduced by game management authorities--in an effort to revive some of the original wild populations that had been decimated by the 1900s. 

So, while some Canada Geese are migratory, flying thousands of miles each year between nesting and wintering sites, others are happy to stick around. We humans have made them an offer they can’t refuse--acres and acres of delectable grass on lawns, parks, and golf courses.

There’s a lot more to learn on our website, I’m Michael Stein.

Sounds of geese in flight provided by the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by G.B. Reynard and William W.H. Gunn.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2013 Tune In to               October 2013

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Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine