Bird Database

Canada Goose

(Branta canadensis)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance


Strongly increasing



Conservation Actions

Manage waterfowl harvest, protect wetlands

Canada Goose

(Branta canadensis)

Canada Geese are a conservation success story – perhaps to excess. Like other game birds they were hunted extensively in colonial times and had declined dramatically by the late 1800s. During this period the species was primarily a migrant through New Hampshire, wintering occasionally near the coast, and was not known to breed. Following increased protection, the population began to grow through the 1950s, when breeding was first reported in the southeastern portion of the state. During the Breeding Bird Atlas in the 1980s, Canada Geese had expanded to most of Hillsborough, Rockingham, and Strafford Counties, but the serious increase occurred a decade later. Now geese are ubiquitous across most of New Hampshire, to the extent that they can become a nuisance when they occur in large numbers in parks and golf courses.

New Hampshire’s Canada Geese come from two distinct sources. The breeding population is derived from those early colonists in the 1940s and 1950s, which were largely semi-feral birds from Massachusetts. Some of these birds were also deliberately moved to other parts of the state (e.g., Lake Umbagog) as part of efforts to reduce conflicts in urban and suburban areas. The breeding geese are largely resident in the state, moving short distances to seek open water in the colder months. In contrast, most of the geese we see in migration, and many of those that winter on Great Bay, are breeders from Newfoundland and Labrador – with a few mixed in from Quebec that winter in the mid-Atlantic states. Birds from the migratory populations tend to be smaller than resident birds, but there is considerable overlap.

The V-shape of a flock of geese is a means of making flight more efficient. Each time the lead bird flaps its wings a swirling vortex of air results, and following birds capitalize on the updraft portion of the vortex. They need to time their flaps carefully, and if successful they may reduce their energy expenditure by as much as 30%. This results in a lot of work for the lead bird, which is why geese regularly shift positions within a V as they travel in a flock.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Canada Goose
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count