canada geese with goslings - canada geese nesting habits

Canada Goose Nesting Habits

The other day I posted about a pair of Mallard Ducks that have been hanging around our pond which indicates to me that they are probably starting to nest somewhere around my property.   There has also been a pair of Canada Geese coming in but they haven’t been sticking around so much like the Mallards are.   That is a good thing as I do not really welcome the geese as much as the ducks.   Yes, watching little goslings chase after their parents around the pond and seeing them grow throughout their early days is definitely worth the entertainment.  Especially when they are learning to fly….the parents take them up the hill on the other side of the pond and start to run down with them to get them to take off in flight.  I just love watching that!

However, back to the unwelcome part.  You see Mallard Ducks are not a nuisance like the Canada Geese are.  Once you get a couple of geese they start to multiply into many more.  If there is a flock of geese flying over and they see one or two on our pond, odds are they will drop down too.  That is when problems arise such as them congregating on my front lawn and pooping everywhere….yes everywhere!  Did you know that one Canada Goose poops 1 to 3 pounds of droppings per day!  That plus the fact that they block oncoming traffic as they wander onto the road without a care in the world, causing a ruckus from impatient drivers.


goose crossing - canada geese nesting habits



Canada Geese Habitat and Diet

The Canada Goose can be found in North America and are in every state in the United States.  You will find them near bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, streams, marshes, and ponds.  They also like a good manicured lawn especially golf courses, grassy fields, grain fields, and for some reason they like parking lots too.  They are very acclimated to being around humans.

They feed on mostly plant material, aquatic plants, berries, seeds, and worms.  You may see them with their butts up in the air in the water as they feed. Always a hoot to see!


Nesting Habits

Canada Geese begin to mate at around two to three years of age.  They will mate for life unless one dies, then they will find another mate.  The female chooses the nesting spot which is usually on a somewhat elevated ground by water that has an unobstructed view.  They want to  be able to spot predators nearby.  The nest also built by the female, is a shallow bowl made of sticks, grass, weeds, moss, and lined with down feathers.  She is the only one to incubate the eggs with the male on guard.

Canada Geese have one brood with the female laying anywhere from two to eight creamy white eggs.  Incubation takes up to twenty-eight days.  Within twenty four hours the young goslings are able to walk, swim, feed, and dive.  When the young are about two to three months old they learn to fly.

canada geese with goslings - canada geese nesting habits



Migrating Vs. Resident Geese

Did you know that there is a difference between a migrating goose and a resident goose?  Migrating Canada Geese migrate to the deep south of the United States and Mexico in the Fall months.  They will migrate back starting in March only stopping for a day or two along the way back to Canada where they breed.

Resident geese on the other hand do not migrate.  They may relocate to another lake or pond but do not travel like  the actual migrant geese do.  So if you have geese sticking around longer than a day or two they are residents and will probably be back.


Facts About Canada Geese

  • They are also know as Canadian Geese but Canada Geese is the correct term.canada goose - nesting habits of canada geese
  • Both sexes look alike with the male being 10% larger.
  • Canada Geese usually roost on the water and will sleep there taking turns to be on the lookout for predators.
  • When a goose feels threatened it will stretch out its neck and honk loudly. It may also hiss, bite, and slap at the perceived threat with its wings.
  • Males are very aggressive towards anything or anyone that they perceive to be a threat to its nest.  You should always be cautious around geese in the spring as they have been know to attack humans trying to defend its territory.
  • Once every year during warm weather around breeding time a goose will molt its feathers.  It will be unable to fly for about 6 weeks where it stays close to water to keep predators at bay.
  • Canada Geese fly in a V pattern taking turns in the top spot while in flight.


Ways to Deter Canada Geese From Your Property

  • They say to let grasses grow tall around your pond as geese do not like to be around them.  Not everybody is in favor of this as it can be very unsightly.
  • Do not feed them as they will only keep coming back.
  • Put wire up around the pond as this can deter the geese.  My neighbor tried this on his side of the pond and it worked for a few weeks until they soon learned to just walk around the wire.
  • A set of Swan decoys are said to be effective as geese and swans do not get along.
  • There are water sprayers that you can buy that only activate during movement of any animal coming near it.  They do work but the problem is if you yourself forget its there…you get wet.
  • There are sprays that you can use to spray on your grass which are supposed to keep the geese away.  Reviews are not in agreement as they say the sprays do not work.
  • Away With Geese Water Unit is a device that floats on the water and is supposed to disrupt the geese causing them to leave.  This one has mixed reviews that are more positive than negative, but may be worth a try if you are desperate.  However, it is a little expensive at $356.00.





In Conclusion

The breeding season for Canada Geese starts in early March and will go until around May.  The female chooses the spot for the nest which is a shallow bowl made up of sticks, grass, weeds, moss, and down feathers and slightly elevated off of the ground.  She will lay up to eight eggs and be the only one who incubates it.  The male stays nearby guarding the nest.  After approximately 30 days the eggs will hatch and within twenty four hours the nestlings called goslings will be led to water.  They already know how to walk, swim, dive, and feed.  Both adults will raise them.

It is always enjoyable to see the babies as they follow their parents around the water and on land.   You may see quite a few families floating around on the  bigger lakes in the spring too.  Which is always cute to see.   Now when they get older………


How do you feel about Canada Geese?  I would love to hear your thoughts.  Please feel free to make any comments below.


Happy Birding!




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Posted in Ducks, Geese, Shorebirds.


  1. I didn’t know that Canada goose started mating around three years of age. I assume that they’re loyal to their partners, such as penguins.

    And the amount that they poop is huge! I wouldn’t even guess that they were such hardcore poopers. Thank you for the great information. I learned A LOT from your article!

    • Thanks for your comment Tyler!  Yeah, Canada Geese are definite poopers LOL!  The male and female do mate for life unless something happens to one of them then they find another mate.  I don’t mind them as long as they are somewhere else besides my pond or if there is just one or two of them.  

  2. We have a pair of resident Canadian geese on our pond in SW Georgia. They have nested here for several years now. This year “Gertie” was on her nest while “Gus” stood watch. No babies!!! We checked the island on our pond to discover one egg outside the nest broken?? She seems to be nesting again… is this possible?? I thought they only had one brood a year??

    • Karen, yes, Canada Geese have only one brood a year. The female can lay anywhere from 5 to 10 eggs. It takes about 1 day for the female to lay one egg. So more than likely she is laying more eggs in another nest that works better for her. The same thing happened with our “Gladys” and “Guthrie” as I call them. She laid an egg that rolled down the hill and broke from the first nest but then started another nest in another spot and has been there ever since. In another week or two we should see some goslings.

      Let me know how it goes. I would love to hear from you. Thanks for your comments!

  3. At my work place we have a lot of Canada Geese. One is sitting on a nest close to our parking lot. I do not see here leave so I was wondering how does she get food and water? Should we put some food out for her close to the nest?

    • Debbie, no you do not need to feed her. Geese fatten up prior to nesting to prepare for the 28-30 day incubation period. So the mama goose will be fine. Food placed near her would only attract predators anyway and you don’t want that.

      Thanks for your comments. Keep me posted on how they do.

  4. We have a pair of geese on our pond, the female has been setting on her nest for nearly a month. About 2 weeks ago two other geese came in and were promptly fought off by the male and then the female the intruders left. Yesterday two more came in. They were escorted to the nest where they just watched the female on her nest,then they left. We have not seen any babies yet. Is this common behavior? I keep waiting for babies to come out.

    • Carolyn, yes, other geese will come in sometimes and the parents will try to shew them off (mostly the male but if they get too close the female will start hissing at them). Babies should be born very soon if not already. Babies have already hatched in the last few days at our place so be on the look out. It won’t be long if there are eggs on the nest. Keep me posted. Thanks for your comments.


    • Charlie, sometimes they decide that the area is not safe for their babies. So they move to another location. The young goslings are guided by their parents as they move along to their next place. Thanks for your comments.

    • I just chased a pair of my deck before I realized the female had made a nest in my large plant pot there are two eggs in the nest will they come back . Feel bad

  6. We are a nest on the top of a tall fir tree next to the Willamette River near Salem. It is used every year by Ospreys who arrived about April 1st. It is March 29th and a pair of Canada geese have been sitting on this nest for about a week. It seems way too high for a goose nest. I am a bit anxious about what will happen when the I sorry show up.

    • Ann, I have heard of geese using Osprey nests but find it hard to believe because the young goslings have no way of getting out of the nest. Goslings are not like regular birds they quickly move out of their nest once they hatch and go to water. It takes much longer for a young gosling to fly (60+ days) as opposed to a Cardinal that takes about 10 days before it begins to fly. Keep watching it should get interesting :-). Thanks for your comments.

  7. We have a pair of returning geese on our pond. She has built a best awhile ago. Not laying eggs?? Why is that?
    In the past few years, she has hatched a few goslings. We checked the nest yesterday… Looks fine, no sign of any disturbance or eggs?? Do they not lay eggs for any particular reason?? We live in SW Georgia.

    • Patricia, are you sure she doesn’t have them buried to hide them? Sometimes they do that to keep predators away. If she isn’t sitting on the nest she may have decided to build elsewhere. Not sure but keep an eye out. Thanks for your comments.

  8. We just moved to a property with a large pond. Two Canada geese have decided to hang around, and a nest was started. I just watch them from the window, so as not to disturb them. This morning, I can see white things near the nest, and nobody is sitting on the nest itself. There must have been a predator overnight. The two geese stood around for a few hours. Will they build another nest and lay more eggs, or are they done for the year?

    • Marianne, no they are probably not done for the year. They will probably try another nest soon to start over. Keep an eye out you just never know where they will show up. Thanks for your comments.

    • Hi….so much going on around our small pond. One couple have been nesting by the same deck next to mine for 14 years. The owners name is Ed so I named them Eddie and Edith. (Much easier to explain who they are!)
      They’re always the first to show up and hatch their babies. We have reason to believe a human or lawn care people destroyed her eggs this spring. They just hatched 2nd nest today.
      I saw another couple this morning as the hatching was going on with 6 newborns (which is late here) and Eddie had a fit …going after the male in the water flipping babies, etc.
      Later I was able to see the nest with one egg left and a baby by itself. Very tiny. No parents around. ?
      Then I see a pair later (don’t know if it was Eddie and Edith) but it was all new borns.. (so assumed them) at least 10 of them. Lots of adults around but no other new borns. Could the first pair have taken over 6 of the babies as they were hatching from Eddie and Edith? Or did E & E snag the other 6 to their group?

      Earlier this spring I saw a family of 4 hanging with a family of 8. Pretty soon they were all together! Became a family of 12!

      One pair showed up with 21 babies? ?

      I see sometimes a baby will get separated from its parents and another family will adopt it, but this is first year it seems they’re joining forces? Then one pair gives the babies up? Communal mind set? ?
      Can’t seem to find any information about this. Any ideas?

      I really do have a life besides watching these geese, ducks, birds, etc.! ?
      Wish I could name tag the geese! I only know Eddie from his behavior and where and how he hangs out!

      • Kathleen, geese sometimes take other goslings as their own so who knows. Once the young become more independent families of geese seem to gather together. We have about 5 different families of geese hanging around our pond right now. At first the family with the very young goslings would steer clear of the other families and fight off any goose that came near them. Now they have all joined together as it seems one big unit.

        The last two days however, there has only been the one family. The others have ventured off probably to another nearby pond. Yet, give it a day or two and they will return and gather together again. That’s what geese do. I hope that this helps. Thanks for commenting. Donna

  9. We have a goose who layed 3 eggs in our flower pot on our dock. She has no mate hanging out with her anywhere? Is this highly unusual? Can geese lay eggs that are not fertilized??

    • Liza, if there isn’t another goose around then I would say something must have happened to the male. The males are usually fairly close by help keeping watch. If there is no gander (male) then the eggs probably won’t hatch. Thanks for your comments.

  10. Yesterday evening the male flew out of our pond like a crazy bird. The female is still sitting and seems fine. They arent new to the pond, but it was strange to see the male fly out solo in a rage. He isnt back today. Being a dad scare him off???

  11. A Canada goose has made her nest on our third floor roof garden. There are 5 eggs in her nest but have not seen the gander. Our concern is for the babies, how will they get down from such a high height ?

    • Darlene, I really don’t know how the babies will get down. Someone posted the other day that they had one nesting in an osprey nest high on a platform. You’ll have to keep me posted on that one. Donna

      • I’ve had a pair nesting on my barn every spring for about 10 years! I worried the first year about the babies but was lucky enough to witness when they left the nest–the parents fly down to the ground and then stand there, “screaming” at the kids (who are squeeking like mad) and then the babies, one by one JUMP OFF! I was mortified! But in all these years I’ve never found a broken or dead baby in the grass below, they just sort of bounce and then go on their way!

  12. We have a pair of geese that come back every year. She is on her nest. 3 new geese came in and fought for 7hours over her and her nest. Looked like they won. And we’re eating her eggs. But the next morning she was back on nest male doesn’t go far out in water the 3 geese are still here what happened

    • Bonnie, I honestly do not know. It is odd that the geese were eating the eggs. They eat grain, grass, etc. Are you sure it wasn’t something else that came along later like a raccoon or something? Most geese know when their eggs are disturbed or destroyed but a 1st year goose may not. Keep an eye on her, who knows maybe there is still one or two left that you cannot see? Keep me posted. Thanks for your comments.

  13. We live along a small creek about 20 -30 feet wide. For the fourth year in a row, our resident Canada Geese have made a nest in our compost pile about 2 feet above the water level. For the 3rd year, a flood came and floated the nest and eggs away. The geese are back but there are no signs of renesting. Will they renest and how can I get them to nest further away from the water?

    • Arnie, that compost pile is probably ideal for them. The only thing you could do is put some type of barrier or something that will block them from nesting there. For example, I had to put small garden fences in various positions to keep geese from nesting in my garden. It worked and not they have a nest further down the pond in a better spot. I hope this helps. Thanks for your comments.

  14. We are so happy with the pair of Canadian Geese that live on our seasonal pond! Such a sweet love story: while the female is nesting farther away, the male will quietly rest on the pond alone, or sit in the grass along side of it. But as soon as he hears the female honking her arrival, he honks back excitedly and flies across our property to meet his mate in the sky – then quickly turns to escort her back to the pond, where they enjoy their morning swim together.

  15. We have a pair of geese that return and nest every year. This year they have four goslings. Whenever we see the family, there are three adults and the four babies. Any idea who this third adult might be?

    • Jill, there is a high possibility that there is another female sitting on a nest. The gander is just hanging out with them until the eggs are hatched (but in close proximity to the nest). Check around to see if you see anything and let me know. Thanks for your comments. Donna

  16. A pair of Canadian Geese had 2 babies at our pond. after one and one half weeks
    they just left walking. No dogs are any other danger we could see. what would
    cause this ?

    • Hi John, sometimes they just decide to move to another nearby pond. It is highly possible that they will be back. I have had 3 families of geese on our pond for the past week but today there is only 1 family. They seem to come and go. So keep an eye out you just never know. Thanks for your comments. Donna

  17. Will another female goose use a nest of another female geese whose eggs were assumed to be eaten by a predator? Female on nest for a couple weeks then both female and male goose left the property and abandoned the nest.

  18. Good morning,
    We had a Canada goose sitting on a bale of hay near a pond for 12 days after making a nice nest with her mate(well, he watched anyway). Yesterday morning the pair was gone. We checked the nest and found no eggs, whole or broken, and no sign of struggles from the birds other than nesting feathers.
    Do geese think they are sitting on eggs and eventually figure out they arent, like a broody chicken?
    We farm in northern Montana and have geese, ducks, etc on our ponds. geese usually dont stick around so this was a pleasure that turned into a bummer. Trying to figure out the mystery.
    Thank you, deb

    • Deb, usually the female can figure out that eggs are bad. A first year goose may not sometimes. I really do not know other than something might have gotten to them too, however you would probably see some remnants. I wish I could give you a better answer but I really do not know.

  19. How long can, or will, the female goose sit continuously on the nest/eggs without moving for any reason – food, water, etc.?

    • Lynn, it can take up to 30 days. The one near our property seemed to be on the nest forever then finally last week the babies hatched. The female sits there through rain, wind, storms…it is unbelievable. She will be fine as she stores up the energy before she gets on the nest. Thanks for commenting.


    • Karen, the eggs may have hatched already and the family moved to another safer? location. We have at least 5 families of geese visiting our pond right now. Some may stay for a day or two others move on only to return again. Watch for them, they may come back. Thanks for your comments. Donna

  21. Our pair of geese and their two babies will leave for @ two days , then show up
    for a couple days. Is this a normal thing for them? I keep cracked corn out while they
    are here.

    • John, yes, geese may leave for a few days and return. They have probably found another pond that feels safer to them. We have had families come and go this spring. One day they are here for the day and then are gone again. Thanks for your comments.

  22. We have 2 geese at our pond. They were here in March and then the mallards took over the pond and the geese left for a few weeks. Now they are back, I can’t find a nest but they go to the same spot all the time. We feed the deer, and the geese come to the feeder numerous times during the day, he stands guard and she eats and then lays down, when they go back to the pond she lays down again on the way, Is she carrying eggs? She looks like she can’t walk very far. Thanks

  23. 2 weeks ago we found 9 goose eggs in what we are confident was an abandoned nest beside a lake in the Adirondacks where we own property. It was in an area of much pine branch debris from wind and ice storms. We left the nest alone and there has been no sign of the adult geese for two weeks. What do you suggest we do with the eggs? We did a float test this weekend in which all but one sank. The floater has a thinner shell and was found a short distance from the other 8 eggs. The sinkers we read are considered fresh. But are they fresh at 2 + weeks old? There has been no sign of geese for quite a while.

    • Mike, if you haven’t seen any activity for awhile I would think that they have been abandoned. The geese would still be somewhere in the vicinity based on my experience, because they keep an eye on the nest. I would just put them in a bag and throw them away if it has been that long. I hope that this helps. Thanks for your comments. Donna

  24. Hi I have a pair of Canada Geese, Grady and Gracie. Recently Gracie has been showing up at the pond and spending most of the day alone. I am so worried about Grady. He has been in a few fights with passing geese. Can you think of why he is not with Gracie? Maybe he is molting and can’t fly on another pond? I am hoping he is OK and will find his way back to Gracie. Thanks! I loved your article! PS It is not hunting season..

  25. i have 2 geese come every spring, she must be nesting, male on watch, i feed them chickenfeed some of the time, they have gotten use to me. i live overlooking a creek.

  26. How are are geese population controled. We think a man is breaking their eggs on the other side of the enclave from Lake Ontario in Grimsby . Also our geese seem to stay all year round , but many feed them crushed corn . Will that keep them there and they won’t fly south . Thank you . Marlene .

    • Marlene, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allows property owners to conduct certain control methods with authorization. So not sure if that is the case or not. There are some geese who become permanent residents. If they are being fed all the time they may stay you never know. I hope this helps.

  27. We have geese that come to our pond. I always see two adults with them. Is that the mother and father or is it 2 moms hanging together to help corral the kids.

    • I’m not sure. We have 3 geese hanging around our pond and cannot figure out what is going on. The female has tried to start nests but has not been successful. We are not sure if the extra goose is male or female but they are always together. So maybe siblings? I don’t know.

  28. We have a pair 0f geese that hatch six babies at our pond. After @ four weeks five of the young
    ones and both of adults turn on one of the young ones. When it gets close they all will run it off
    What would cause this ?

    • John, I really do not have an answer for that. Canada geese can be so aggressive to other geese and humans. If anyone has any thoughts please comment.

  29. I am a watcher of the Decorah IA website of Bald Eagles. A Canada goose has made an abandoned eagle nest its’ nest with 3 eggs. Very interesting to watch and learn something new! My question is: how will the babies get to the water from way up high in the tree??? Thank U

    • Pamela, they will have to jump down to the water. They have been known to nest in heron nests as well as on cliffs. I found this information on the Raptor Resource Project who mentions this very thing about the Pamela Hartmann nest. Since I cannot put a link here is some verbiage from it: “The jump is over quickly. Dad will be waiting on the ground below to help protect his family. Mom will fly down from the nest and honk for the goslings, who will follow her out of the nest. Their light weight and downy bodies will help protect them from injuries when they land on the soft grassy surface below the nest. Once the goslings have landed, their parents will lead them directly to the pond, honking and hissing all the way.” I hope this helps.

  30. HI there, Canadian here. We have a couple who have nested in our parking lot at work in a middle garden. I had a run in with them when I tried to put pylons around the garden to keep the drivers away from it. About 6/8 feet from the nest mamma came at my head. I check on them and the nest every few days to make sure they are unharmed and okay. I have not seen the male for a few days now. Will he leave like this and return? I hope nothing has happened to him.

  31. Hello. There are (or were) a pair of canada geese that land on top of my childrens schools rooftop to nest each year with a pond across the street. Every year! Well this year (April 8) someone aimed to hit the Male and it was horrific. I’m worried about the female…would she desert her nest? And how will she go eat after 30 days if there is no Male to watch the young so she can go eat?

    • She will hopefully stay on the nest until the goslings are ready to hatch. The goslings go directly to water after being born so she should be OK. She can eat while they are eating. Mallard female ducks are the sole care takers of the new ducklings once they are hatched and they do just fine with eating.

  32. So happy to see there are so many people out there that are enjoying the geese that come to their ponds! Our pair show up like clockwork in March. This year, she built her nest right next to the pond and had been sitting on it for about a week or two. She stopped last week and we checked out the nest. No sign of eggs until we walked around quite a bit and found the eggshells. We were so sad. Figure it was a coyote. We have watched the geese run off foxes so I doubt it was the fox.

    She doesn’t seem to be building another nest. Is it possible for them to build a second nest and have a successful brood? We get so emotionally attached!

    • Paula, yes it is possible for her to start another nest. However, we have a pair who also lost their eggs to a coyote and they have yet to try again. They are pretty angry geese too. Chasing another pair with one gosling all the time. It’s unfortunate but it happens.

  33. We have one on the other side of the river but she is alone in her nest. I do not see her mate. There is another one down the river but her mate is with her. I feel bad for the one that is all alone. Why wouldn’t the male stick around?

  34. Here in Pennsylvania, we have had a nesting pair for six years. mostly about seven or so clutch size. This year, they have nine little goslings — BUT of two different sizes. Four are about twice the size of the five tinier ones. Did they have two nests, or adopt another brood from a neighboring nest?

    • Howard, it could be possible that they adopted another brood, especially since they are 2 different sizes. I doubt if they had 2 nests but who knows. Thanks for your comments.

  35. Last year we had a pair of Canadian Geese decided to choose our pond to nest but we live in the country so we have a lot of predators in the area so I decided to build a nesting platform to put away from the bank to keep her safe and she took right to it and made her nest and hatched 5 gosling’s, well after about 2 weeks they all disappeared so I assumed predators got them. Well they arrived back this so I put the platform back out in the pond and she went directly to it and started organizing the nest, so here it is March 5th and today she was plucking feathers from her chest and lining the nest so I think she will be laying eggs soon. I’m curious if they will disappear again because we would like to watch the gosling’s grow up!

  36. Our “goose” family made their nest in the middle of our boat dock. We generally use it most days starting in June. After she has her babies is it ok to take the nest off the dock? Hopefully they will relocate by the shore.

  37. We have 5 families when they take the babies out on the water one big goose is in the front and one big goose is in the back which is which??

  38. Hello!! We have a Canada Goose who laid eggs on one of the hangovers on our work building. The hangover is filled with decorative rocks (she has laid here before). She has been sitting on her eggs for nearly 40-days. Every morning I see her down eating, and I stare at the eggs through the window (there are 3), hoping to see signs of life, but I think I know that isn’t going to happen anymore. It breaks my heart.

    When will she realize they aren’t going to hatch? Poor, sweet mama.

    • Eventually she’ll get the picture. It is so sad to watch but that sometimes happens in nature unfortunately. She still has time to start another nest so hopefully that happens.

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