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The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is a wild goose belonging to the genus Branta, which is native to arctic and temperate regions of North America, having a black head and neck, white patches on the face, and a brownish-gray body.
Taxonomy and etymologyEdit
The Canada Goose was one of the many species described by Carl Linnaeus in his 18th-century work Systema Naturae.[[|]] It belongs to the Branta genus of geese, which contains species with largely black plumage, distinguishing them from the grey species of the Anser genus. The specific epithet canadensis is a New Latin word meaning "from Canada". According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first citation for the 'Canada Goose' dates back to 1772. The Canada Goose is also referred to as the Canadian Goose.[[|]]
The Cackling Goose was originally considered to be the same species or a subspecies of the Canada Goose, but in July 2004 the American Ornithologists' Union's Committee on Classification and Nomenclature split the two into two species, making Cackling Goose into a full species with the scientific name Branta hutchinsii. The British Ornithologists' Union followed suit in June 2005.[[|]]
The AOU has divided the many subspecies between the two animals. To the present species were assigned:
- Atlantic Canada Goose, Branta canadensis canadensis
- Interior Canada Goose, Branta canadensis interior
- Giant Canada Goose, Branta canadensis maxima
- Moffitt's Canada Goose, Branta canadensis moffitti
- Vancouver Canada Goose, Branta canadensis fulva
- Dusky Canada Goose, Branta canadensis occidentalis
- part of "Lesser complex", Branta canadensis parvipes
The distinctions between the two geese have led to confusion and debate among ornithologists. This has been aggravated by the overlap between the small types of Canada Goose and larger types of Cackling Goose. The old "Lesser Canada Goose" was believed to be a partly hybrid population, with the birds named taverneri considered a mixture of minima, occidentalis and parvipes. In addition, it has been determined that the Barnacle Goose is a derivative of the Cackling Goose lineage, whereas the Hawaiian Goose is an insular representative of the Canada Goose.
The black head and neck with white "chinstrap" distinguish the Canada Goose from all other goose species, with the exception of the Barnacle Goose, but the latter has a black breast, and also grey, rather than brownish, body plumage.[[|]] There are seven subspecies of this bird, of varying sizes and plumage details, but all are recognizable as Canada Geese. Some of the smaller races can be hard to distinguish from the newly-separated Cackling Goose.
This species ranges from 75 to 110 cm (30 to 43 in) in length and has a 127–185 cm (50–73 in) wingspan.[[|]] The male usually weighs 3.2–6.5 kg (7.1–14 lb), and can be very aggressive in defending territory. The female looks virtually identical but is slightly lighter at 2.5–5.5 kg (5.5–12 lb), generally 10% smaller than its male counterpart, and has a different honk. An exceptionally large male of the race B. c. maxima, the "giant Canada goose" (which rarely exceed 8 kilograms (18 lb)), weighed 10.9 kilograms (24 lb) and had a wingspan of 2.24 metres (7.3 ft). This specimen is the largest wild goose ever recorded of any species. The life span in the wild of geese that survive to adulthood ranges 10–24 years.[[|]]
thumb|300px|right|Canada Geese can be territial when feeding, but this video shows the behivors of Canada GeeseLike most geese, the Canada Goose is naturally migratory with the wintering range being 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. In some areas, migration routes have changed due to changes in habitat and food sources. In mild climates from California to the Great Lakes, some of the population has become non-migratory due to adequate winter food supply and a lack of former predators.