Canadian geese, also called the Canada goose, are large waterfowl that live in North America and migrate to many far-flung places in the world during winter. Since they live in so many diverse places throughout the year, it’s only fair to ask, what do Canadian geese eat? Although they’re waterfowl that are frequently seen chomping on vegetation, the answer to that question is not cut and dry.
We’ll explore the various foods that Canadian geese consume throughout their lifespans while also considering how they fare in less-plentiful situations.
What Foods Do Canadian Geese Eat?
The key to that question lies in the answer to “what do geese eat?”. These large birds love to feed on vegetable matter especially fresh, nutrient-rich grass, aquatic sedges, and rhizomes. They may also snack on the occasional berry as well. They have rather efficient digestive systems including a gizzard which is actually more effective compared to those of chickens and ducks.
Canadian geese eat grass, aquatic vegetation, algae, and insects. They are herbivorous most of the time, but they also integrate other foods into their feeding habits as necessary. For example, these birds will often consume more insects when they’re young and more roots as adults during winter when their preferred foods are not as widely available.
Consider the various foods that Canadian geese survive on throughout the year:
- Kentucky Bluegrass
- Root bulbs
- Freshwater snails
- Tall fescue
The favorite food of most Canadian geese is grass. It’s plentiful, easy to come across, and available just about everywhere they live or migrate to throughout the year. Of course, Canadian geese eat different foods depending on whether they are spending time on the water or land.
Much of the time, geese do not directly search for mollusks and crustaceans to eat. They just happen to be near the different vegetation that the geese are eating, and they get are an added morsel.
Sometimes, Canadian geese will start to look for insects, mollusks, and other creatures when they have a nutritional deficiency. Like other waterfowl, most people refer to these creatures as herbivorous even though they’re not strictly plant-eaters. They’re certainly omnivorous.
How Do Canadian Geese Find Food?
Canadian geese do not have extraordinary senses with which to find food. They have a decent sense of smell and a good sense of sight that provides them with the opportunity to find and distinguish between different foods.
The primary way that Canadian geese find food is by grazing through the vegetation on land. They will bite the grass or plants and then tear away from it to break it since they lack teeth. They do possess tomia like some other waterfowl, rudimentary teeth-like protrusions on their bills, and tongues that help them tear through vegetation quickly.
Canadian geese often look for and consume foods while they are on the water too. Like other waterfowl, they will spot something they want to eat while paddling on the surface, and then dive to get it. This behavior is called upending as they tip their bodies into the water to feed, leaving just their tails above the water. The geese grab and tear water vegetation much as they do on land.
When it comes to eating insects, mollusks, or other invertebrates, the geese do not necessarily hunt. They opportunistically snatch up these creatures when they are near, especially when they lack access to their other preferred foods.
What Do Baby Canadian Geese Eat?
Baby Canadian geese are called goslings, and they can find their own food from the time they hatch. Like adults, they will prefer to feed on grass because it is plentiful and easy to consume. Sometimes, they will consume clover as well as dandelions that are mixed in their natural grazing areas.
Goslings will also eat small insects that they find, like mosquitoes and worms. These insects are filled with protein that will help the goslings get the nutrition they need.
Although they mostly stick to dry land when looking for food for the first few weeks of life, the goslings soon follow their mother into the water. Once there, they will include aquatic vegetation in their diet and assume fully adult eating habits.
What Do Canadian Geese Eat During Winter?
The wintertime is a period of change for geese as many of them migrate south in search of warmer climates and food. In North America, Canadian geese can migrate all the way from Alaska to the southern portions of the United States and into Mexico.
Living in areas with less access to their favorite foods means geese have to diversify their diet to stay healthy. Among the foods that geese add to their diet are:
- Cracked corn
These birds will try to supplement their diet to include more carbohydrates to give them the energy they need to continue their migration and make it through the less-plentiful times of winter.
Canadian Geese often stop in fields that were just harvested for vegetables and will gladly stop at homes that put out fresh vegetables, especially leafy greens, for them to eat.
What Predators Eat Canadian Geese?
Now we’ve provided answers to that all-important question, “what do geese like to eat?” (those of the Canadian variety, more precisely), it’s time to take a look at what likes to eat them. Not that these sturdy avians make it easy for would-be predators: like other waterfowl, they have a reputation for being aggressive creatures, especially when it comes to defending their young. They are not all bluster, either. These geese will provide a warning with a threat display including spread wings and loud screeches. They will attack if the threat doesn’t scare off the encroacher.
Although their threat display is enough to scare off some of their predators, it is not enough to protect them all the time.
The common predators of Canadian geese include:
Goslings face the greatest threat of predation, especially from snakes, eagles, and snapping turtles. They have no defenses against these creatures, and their parents can only protect them to a certain extent.
Adult Canadian geese are viewed as pests by humans, but they are also protected from outright slaughter by laws. Sometimes, the geese are culled in local areas, but these birds do not have a struggling population by any means.
Canadian geese are migratory herbivores that do eat some insects, invertebrates, and mollusks from time to time. They are a common sight throughout North America, where they have become known for their threat displays and unique coloring that includes a black head and white cheeks.
Although they may be noisy creatures, they’re not a threat to people that leave them be and keep their distance, just like most other wild animals.
Can You Feed Canadian Geese Bread?
If you live near a park with a lake – chances are you have noticed people feeding the geese bites of bread and they certainly flock to it! It is fun to feed wild animals but it is not always a good idea. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t feed bread to Canadian geese:
- Bread is high in carbohydrates and is not healthy for geese. Their stomachs may fill up on bread and they may fail to eat more nutritious food like grass.
- The geese may get lazy and depend on hand-outs from people. If they get a steady supply – the geese may overpopulate your area causing many problems.
- Birds with a diet high in carbohydrates defecate more and can pollute the environment, damage property and pose health risks.
- Geese that rely on humans for food may be aggressive toward people who do not have food for them.
Summary of What Do Canadian Geese Eat? 20+ Foods They Prefer
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Joseph Scott Photography/Shutterstock.com
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.