Discover Nature: Giant Canada Geese in Missouri

Dec 13, 2020

You see them at any given park pond, but what’s the story behind those geese?

The Christmas goose is a holiday tradition in many Missouri homes. From sky to table, the Giant Canada is the largest goose in the world. Thought to be extinct nearly 65 years ago, it’s a conservation success story. Roughly 2.6 million are harvested by hunters in North America, and their numbers are increasing.

These tasty birds can weigh more than 20 pounds, with lifespans up to 30 years in their natural habitats, which include lakes, rivers, ponds, farm fields, lawns and yards. Geese typically have large bodies and a long neck, along with a black head with a white cheek patch. They dabble in water, graze in fields and lawns, and fly in a “V” formation. They nest across North America, and female geese typically lay 2-8 eggs, which incubate for 25-28 days. Some geese migrate, and some do not.

Giant Canada geese enjoy the same areas we do: parks, lawns, golf courses and waterside areas. Their sheer numbers, droppings and loud honking can cause problems, but they also provide food and down for bedding and coats.

Canada Geese form strong family bonds -- which means mating for life. The female builds an elevated nest with unobstructed views, while the male defends. And the young remain with their parents for about a year.

The Canada goose is a common winter resident in Missouri. Large numbers pass through the state in late February and early March. And the largest concentration is usually found at Swan Lake in north central Missouri, where about 130,000 geese spend the winter each year.

More information about geese in Missouri can be found online at mdc.mo.gov.