Canada Geese: Nesting-related Behavior

As regular readers of this blog know, I have a special interest in the nesting practices of the birds that breed in Eliza Howell Park. I enjoy watching and learning about the ways different species construct their nests, share (or not) incubation time, and care for the young.

This week I located a new Canada Goose nest, in a location that provides me opportunity to gain or confirm knowledge of their practices through regular observation.

20200416_125531Female and male Canada Geese look alike, so I will likely need to rely largely upon published reports in regard to which parent is doing what.

The location of this nest is typical of what I have seen in the past — on the ground near water, in a position to allow the bird to see anything that approaches from different directions.

Some birds use camouflage as the primary means of protection. Canada Geese are prepared to fight against possible predators, so they want to be able to them coming.

20200415_120551As this picture indicates, I was being informed not to approach any closer.

The nest is minimalist in design, a slight bowl with dead grasses and a few feathers added inside. The female incubates the eggs, while the male stands guard. So far, each time I have taken a look at the nest, the male had been close by, either on land or in the water.

20200415_172353Photo by Margaret Weber

One of the fascinating behaviors reported about their nesting practices is that, after the eggs (anywhere from 2 – 8) are all laid, the female never leaves the nest. She does not eat or drink or bathe — for the approximately 28 days needed for the eggs to hatch.

If this is true, this reality, along with  their readiness to attack to protect the nest, means that I do not expect to get any pictures of eggs in a temporarily vacated nest, as I sometimes do with other species.

The hatchlings are fully developed after 4 weeks of development in the eggshell, able to walk, swim, and feed a day or two after hatching.


For those familiar with the parenting role of male in most species of ducks (the female incubates on her own and then tends the young on her own), it might come as a surprise that the male goose is constantly present throughout incubation and remains present as both parents snd the young spend the next several weeks together. The family can often be seen swimming in single file, with one adult at the front and one adult at the rear.

Canada Geese are, in urban areas, often seen as a pest because they congregate in large numbers in places like parks and golf courses. They are able to digest grass and our cultivation of lawns has changed their behavior since the days of my youth. But that is a story for another time.

For now, I am looking forward to witnessing as much as I can of their nesting behavior — from a safe distance (considerably more than 6 feet!).

20200415_172508Photo by Margaret Weber

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