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Fairfax, VA 22030
Dr. Katherine Edwards
Wildlife Management Specialist

Canada Geese


Canada geese (Branta canadensis) are a type of waterfowl . These birds are 30 to 45 inches long with a wingspan of up to 5.5 feet, and weigh 6 to 20 lbs. Body color is lighter gray to a dark brown with a black head and neck, and distinct white cheek patches. The bill, legs and feet are black.


Canada geese are federally protected and comprised of two distinct populations: migratory geese and “resident” geese (non-migratory).

Migratory geese fly to Canada to lay eggs and raise their young each Spring and fly south each Fall to spend the Winter in the US. Canada geese observed in Fairfax County during the Spring and Summer are non-migratory “residents”. Canada geese will only migrate if they have been taught to make the migration from the U.S. to Canada each year with their parents. If a goose has not learned to migrate, it will reside year-round within the vicinity where it was born.

Resident Canada geese populations are increasing and classified as “nuisance and problem wildlife” in Virginia. Federal and state regulations apply to all geese management activity (lethal or non-lethal). The Fairfax County Geese Management Program is available to assist residents with resident geese conflicts.

Canada geese generally pose little threat to humans, their property or pets. Geese mate for life and can become aggressive during the egg-laying season and while they raise their young. Geese build ground nests with bark, grasses, and twigs lined with feathers, although resident geese are known to build nests in parking lots and atop buildings. Females lay 5-12 eggs with an incubation period of 25 to 30 days.

Canada geese lose their flight feathers during the Summer months in a process called “molting”. During this time, geese are unable to fly until they regrow flight feathers. They will gather together near bodies of water for safety and protection from predators.


Canada geese are herbivores. A natural diet primarily consists of grasses and aquatic plants including bulrush, cattail, clover, horsetail, and sedge. A modified diet can include agricultural crops such as alfalfa, barley, corn, millet, oat, rye, and wheat.


Canada geese inhabit wooded, suburban and urban areas of Fairfax County. These birds are highly adaptable and can become permanent residents of parks , golf courses, and housing developments with small or large bodies of water.

More species information


For information on managing wildlife interactions and resolving human-wildlife conflicts, the Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline is available toll-free at (855) 571-9003, 8:00AM-4:30PM, Monday through Friday. This helpline is a collaborative effort between the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Wildlife Services.

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