Mating Canada Geese

These large geese are very impressive up close, especially during their mating rituals.

The Canada Goose is the only North American goose that typically breeds south of the 49th parallel.  Many of them have lost their migratory habit and have become so common in the “lower 48” that they’re considered a nuisance in some areas, particularly the Midwest.   They are monogamous and form extremely stable pair bonds – divorce rates (that’s what they’re called) are estimated to be from 1-2% – an enviable record that perhaps humans should emulate.


canada goose 3578 ron dudley

 1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, 500 f/4 II, 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

 About ten days ago I was photographing mostly ducks on Willow Pond when several groups of Canada Geese (calling them “Canadian Geese” is technically incorrect) flew in to rest (I thought) on the pond.



canada goose 3619  ron dudley

  1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, 500 f/4 II, 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

Photographing birds this large and this close in flight is quite an adjustment for me.  It seems that my teleconverter is never attached or unattached to the best advantage and I miss a lot of shots during the swapping process so I generally left it on and took what I got.



canada goose 3546 ron dudley

  1/3200, f/5.6, ISO 640, Canon 7D, 640 f/4 II, 1.4 tc. not baited, set up or called in

This time of year these birds can weigh up to 10 pounds (females lose over 40% of their body mass during incubation) so it takes a lot of effort for them to become airborne.  Watching the process, whether they’re taking off from land or from water, is impressive.  And loud.



canada goose 3993 ron dudley

   1/3200, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D, 640 f/4 II, not baited, set up or called in

This amorous pair put on quite a show as they mated.  Actual copulation was preceded by head-dipping and then both birds stretched their necks, lifted their chins and called out loudly so I was pretty sure that mating would follow.   It did.   During the process the male grasped the feathers on the upper neck of the female and…



canada goose 3996 ron dudley

 1/3200, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D, 640 f/4 II, not baited, set up or called in

 held on very tightly.  The female’s head and neck were twisted around fairly violently during the process.



canada goose 4005 ron dudley

  1/3200, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D, 640 f/4 II, not baited, set up or called in

 When the male dismounted he still had a beak-full of her neck feathers and he kept them there for some time after mating which made me wonder if that was part of the ritual.



canada goose 4040 ron dudley

  1/4000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D, 640 f/4 II, not baited, set up or called in

The pair immediately moved a few feet to my right and each bird seemed to celebrate their successful mating in its own way – the male with an enthusiastic and impressive wing-flap as the female bathed.  The image is tight but it’s full-frame so I had no wiggle room.

It won’t be long until most of our geese have moved on to their more northerly breeding grounds, though some of them breed here.  I’ll miss them but must admit I won’t miss having to scrape goose poop off my shoes after one of my forays to Willow Pond.



8 comments to Mating Canada Geese

  • Susan Stone

    Beautiful photos of one of my all-time favorite birds. I got to know a flock of them at one time and really enjoyed interacting with them as well as watching how the families operate. These photos are special for me because they beautifully document some behavior I’ve not had the opportunity to see before. I understand why people don’t like the poop, but the geese are beautiful animals with great personalities.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Very interesting info and super shots Ron!

  • Jane Chesebrough

    I empathize about the poop. And with the female is sometimes totally submerged head and all. Tana I saw coywolf-very interesting.Back to the birds-The pond where I usually go to is all dug up and bull-dozed as it will be deepened as the city gets ready for the international triathlon this summer-so who knows what will happen to the geese.Oh they will fight back and despite the chases by trained dogs and lazer beams I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few of them stand their ground and produce a few offspring.

  • tana hunter

    These geese are amazingly adaptable. Golf courses hate them and farmers ditto. I think they make great food for predators, but most humans do not want any predators around. (Did you see Coywolf on Nature?) But I Love hearing them fly over my house in their modified V’s. Go Geese! Thanks for the wonderful pics, and mating under water? whoa….

  • Thanks very much, Dick, Elephant’s Child and Patty.

  • Patty Chadwick

    Great shots and Amen, Elephant’s Child…

  • Amazing. But those poor females. My anthromorphic self finds nothing romantic (or satisfying) in being pecked, half drowned and strangled. I would need a bath too.

  • Dick Harlow

    Great shots Ron, many thanks for sharing.