Canada Goose Migration Habits

Updated July 19, 2017

Fall is a season of rustling leaves, balmy breezes turned to crisp cool air and the familiar sound of honking Canada goose. Looking up, you will recognise the familiar formation of the flock flying toward a warmer place. These birds are following an instinctive pattern of leaving their homes in the autumn and returning in the spring.


Canada geese maintain nests in Canada and in the northern regions of the United States throughout the summer. Once lakes and rivers begin to freeze over and food becomes scarce, the geese congregate into flocks of 30 to 100 birds to start their migration to warmer places. The fall migration occurs in September or October. They travel the same flight corridors called flyways every fall and spring to get to their destinations in southern parts of the United States and northern Mexico. The flyways follow coastlines, rivers and mountain ranges.


Canada geese fly in a V formation because it's both aerodynamic and energy efficient. Each bird in the line flies slightly higher than the bird in front of it, acting as a windbreaker and reducing drag. The line-up provides easy communication between the geese while keeping track of each other. They take turns leading the formation, falling back in the line when they become tired.


The diet for Canada geese diet consists of plant roots, shoots, stems seeds and leaves. They also feed on grass, sedges, grain, bulbs, berries, insects, mollusks, mussels, clams and crayfish. During their migration, they will land and graze on grain left in fields after harvest. Before migration, the Canada geese will eat more than their normal intake of food to build up fat reserves and nutrition needed for migration.


Migration starts in the late January, February and March. The birds follow the melting snow line back to their nesting spots in the north. Along the flyway, the Canada geese land at established locations to rest and eat. Canada geese return to the same nesting areas every year. Preferred nesting habitats for Canada geese are near any type of waterway, such as lakes, rivers, bays, marshes and reservoirs. The geese nest in an isolated area where an open view allows them to see approaching predators.

Speed, Distance

Canada Geese migrate 2,000 miles to 3,000 miles, and can fly 1,500 miles in 24 hours with ideal weather conditions. The geese generally travel 40 miles per hour, but they can reach 70mph with a good wind. The geese fly at altitudes between 2,000 feet and 9,000 feet.


The number of geese that are migrating to the United States is shrinking because of lost habitats and changing weather and agricultural practices. Some Canada geese are migrating shorter distances. Other geese are resident geese meaning that they don't migrate. Resident geese tend to live in city parks and suburban residential developments or on golf courses.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Donna Smith lives in southern New Jersey. She received a B.A. in English literature and worked as a copywriter for a small advertising agency writing copy for catalogs, brochures and newsletters. She also has experience as a proofreader and Web content writer.