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There are several different types of geese that can be found in Virginia. We’ll take a closer look at some of the most common types of geese in our state.
So, if you’re ever lucky enough to see one of these beautiful creatures in the wild, you’ll know what you’re looking at!
The Canada Goose is a large, well-known species of waterfowl noted for its distinctive appearance, familiar “honk,” and migratory behavior.
Appearance: Both male and female Canada Geese have a similar appearance, featuring a black head and neck with distinctive white patches on the cheeks and chin. The body is primarily brown with a lighter, often white, underbelly.
Diet: Canada Geese primarily feed on plant matter, including grasses, aquatic vegetation, and grains. They can often be seen grazing in parks, lawns, and fields, as well as dabbling in water bodies.
Reproduction: Canada Geese typically nest on the ground near water bodies, often on islands or other isolated areas to avoid predators. The female lays a clutch of about 4 to 6 eggs, which she incubates alone for around a month.
Snow Goose Sound
Scientific Name: Anser caerulescens
Length: 25 to 31 in
Wingspan: 53 to 65 in
Weight: 4.5 to 6.0
The Snow Goose is a large species of waterfowl known for its vibrant white plumage and significant migratory flights.
Appearance: True to their name, Snow Geese are predominantly white with black wingtips. They also have a pink bill, pink legs and feet. A color morph, known as the “Blue Goose,” displays a bluish-gray body with a white head, but is considered the same species.
Diet: Snow Geese primarily feed on plant matter, such as grasses, sedges, and small grains. They can often be seen in large flocks foraging in fields and marshes, and during migration and winter, they can cause considerable damage to agricultural fields due to their feeding habits.
Reproduction: Snow Geese typically nest on the tundra, near water bodies. The female builds the nest and lays a clutch of about 3 to 5 eggs, which she incubates alone for approximately three weeks. Once hatched, the goslings can feed themselves but stay with their parents for protection until they can fly.
Scientific Name: Anser rossii
Wingspan: 44.5-45.7 in
The Ross’s Goose is a small species of waterfowl often found in North America’s tundra and wetland habitats.
Appearance: Known for its compact size, the Ross’s Goose is mostly white with black wingtips. It features a short, stubby bill and a rounded head. One key identifying feature is the blueish gray base of its bill, which has a warty structure during the breeding season.
Diet: This goose feeds mainly on vegetation, including seeds, leaves, and roots of grasses and sedges. During winter and migration, they also consume grains and seeds from agricultural fields.
Reproduction: The Ross’s Goose nests on the ground, often in colonies. The female lays a clutch of 2 to 5 eggs which she incubates for around three weeks. The young geese, known as goslings, are precocial – they can walk, swim, and feed themselves shortly after hatching, although they stay with their parents until they learn to fly.
Scientific Name: Branta hutchinsii
Length: 24.8–25.6 in
Wingspan: 43-45.7 in
Cackling Geese are particularly known for their high-pitched, cackling calls, which is the source of their name. Despite their small size, these geese are renowned long-distance migrants, with some populations traveling thousands of miles between breeding and wintering grounds.
Appearance: With a similar color pattern to the larger Canada Goose, the Cackling Goose features a black head and neck, white chinstrap, light tan to cream chest, and brownish-grey body. One defining characteristic is its noticeably smaller size and stubbier neck compared to its larger counterparts.
Diet: Like many geese, the Cackling Goose’s diet mainly consists of plant matter. This includes grasses, seeds, and aquatic vegetation. They are often seen grazing on land or dabbling in shallow water.
Reproduction: Cackling Geese usually nest on the ground in elevated areas near water bodies, such as riverbanks or lakeshores. The female lays a clutch of 2 to 8 eggs and is responsible for incubation, while the male stands guard nearby. Incubation lasts for about a month.
Greater White-fronted Goose
Scientific Name: Anser albifrons
Length: 25 to 31 in
Wingspan: 53 to 66 in
Weight: 3.3 to 6.6
The Greater White-fronted Goose is a medium to large waterfowl species, widely distributed across the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in North America.
Appearance: As the name suggests, these geese display a prominent white patch at the base of their bill. Their bodies are gray-brown, and their breasts are often marked with dark blotches. They possess a pinkish bill and orange legs and feet.
Diet: The Greater White-fronted Goose is a herbivore and feeds mainly on plant material. Its diet consists of grasses, sedges, grains, and berries. When wintering, these geese can often be found in agricultural fields, feasting on leftover grains and crops.
Reproduction: This species nests on the ground, often in areas with good visibility such as slopes or ridges. The female lays a clutch of 4 to 5 eggs, which she incubates for nearly a month. Once hatched, the young ones are taken care of by both parents until they are able to fly.
Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis)
Rare in North America and when spotted its usually within a flock of Canada Geese.
Scientific Name: Branta leucopsis
Height: 55–70 cm (22–28 in)
Wingspan: 130–145 cm (51–57 in)
Weight: 1.21–2.23 kg (2.7–4.9 lb)
Barnacle Goose Description
The barnacle goose is a small goose with a white body and black wings, a black neck, with a white face and black bill. Its crown, eye line and legs are black.
Listen to Barnacle Goose
Barnacle Goose Habitat & Range
Barnacle geese are migratory geese that are native to the Arctic and northern Europe. They spend winters in southern Europe, Africa, India, and Australia. They breed in Iceland, Greenland, Northern Scandinavia, and Canada.
Barnacle Goose Diet
Barnacle Geese feed primarily on grasses, leaves, and other aquatic plants, grains, and algae during their breeding season but also consume insects during migration periods when food may be scarce.
Barnacle Goose Nesting
The Barnacle Goose lays 4-6 eggs in a nest lined with down but on the rock edge. The young Barnacle Goslings have to undergo significant challenges making their way from cliff edges to the water below a few hours after hatching.
Scientific Name: Branta bernicla
Length: 22–26 in
Wingspan: 42–48 in
Weight: 1.9–4.9 lb
The Brant is a compact species of goose that is known for its striking appearance and interesting migratory patterns.
Appearance: The Brant is recognized for its dark, sooty color with a white crescent on the neck. The body is mostly black to dark gray, contrasting with the lighter underparts. Its small size, as compared to other geese, and short, stubby bill are other distinct features.
Diet: The Brant’s diet primarily consists of aquatic plants, especially eelgrass and sea lettuce. During the breeding season, they may also feed on grasses, sedges, and insects.
Reproduction: Brants typically breed in the high Arctic tundra. The female lays a clutch of 3 to 5 eggs in a ground nest, which she incubates for about a month.
Notably, Brants make an impressive long-distance migration every year. They spend their winters along both the east and west coasts of the United States and travel to the Arctic regions of Canada, Alaska, and even Russia to breed.
Are There Any Resident Canada Geese In Virginia?
Canada geese are found in urban areas as well as in rural areas throughout Virginia.
In urban areas, resident geese can often be seen in parks, golf courses and along waterways.
In rural areas, they are typically found near lakes, ponds, and marshes.
Some of the counties where resident Canada geese are commonly seen include Virginia Beach, Hampton Roads, King William County, Fairfax County, Lancaster County, Giles County, and Culpeper County.
While they may seem docile, these geese can become aggressive if they feel threatened. Additionally, they damage agricultural crops.
Can You Remove Canada Geese and Other Migratory Birds From Your Property in Virginia?
If you fall into the latter category, you may be wondering if it’s possible to remove both adult and baby geese from your property in Virginia.
The short answer is yes, but there’s a catch. According to federal law, resident Canada geese are still considered migratory birds, which means that anyone who wants to remove Canada geese from their property must first obtain a permit through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.
This may seem like a hassle, but it’s actually a good thing. The permitting process helps to ensure that the Canada geese are removed in a humane and sustainable way.
You can also ask for assistance from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Geese Hunting in Virginia
Hunting of waterfowl such as Canada geese in the state of Virginia is allowed, provided you have the correct license, permit and stamp which you can obtain from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.
Can You Shoot a Goose in Virginia?
In Virginia, it is only legal to shoot geese with non-toxic shots that have been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
These federal regulations are in place to protect wildlife populations from being unnecessarily harmed.
Virginia’s eastern coast is a renowned hotspot for geese hunting. The Chesapeake Bay area, in particular, is home to large populations of Canada geese and snow geese.
Is There a Goose Hunting Season in Virginia?
The best time to hunt geese in Virginia is September to February. September and October are the best months for hunting early in the season, and November through February are the best months for hunting late in the season.
Conclusion on Geese in VA
If you’re ever in Virginia, be on the lookout for seven different types of geese.
While they may all look similar to some extent, they each have their own unique features and markings that make them stand out from the rest.
Who knows, you might even get a chance to see one of these rare geese up close.