If you’re a fan of waterfowl, Illinois is the place to be!
With two major flyways intersecting in the state, it’s a hotspot for bird migration. And one of the stars of Illinois’ avian show is the Canada goose.
These majestic birds can be found in large numbers all across the state, from Chicago’s downtown parks to rural areas near the Mississippi River.
What Geese Are in Illinois?
5 goose species call Illinois home. These geese include:
- Canada Goose
- Snow Goose
- Ross’s Goose
- Cackling Goose
- Greater White-fronted Goose
Additionally, Illinois is the home of 3 swan species – Tundra Swan, Trumpeter Swan and Mute Swan.
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
The Canada goose is the most common goose species in North America. These birds are easily recognizable thanks to their black heads and necks, white chins, and brown bodies.
- Scientific Name: Branta canadensis
- Height: 75 to 110 cm (30 to 43 in)
- Wingspan: 127–185 cm (50–73 in)
- Weight: Usual: 2.6–6.5 kg (5.7–14.3 lb); Average: 3.9 kg (8.6 lb)
Canada Goose Description
Canada goose is a large water bird that has a black head and neck, white cheeks, and a brownish-gray body. They have webbed feet and can be seen on lakes, ponds, and rivers throughout the United States in summer.
Canada Goose Sound
Canada Goose Habitat & Range
Their habitat includes grasslands, marshes, open woodland areas, and agricultural fields including cornfields where they eat the seeds on the ground.
They are often found near lakes, ponds, rivers, marshes, and open fields where they feed on grasses, aquatic plants, small animals, insects, and grain crops.
Canada Goose Diet
Canada geese are popular game birds; they are also used for their feathers and leather. Their diet consists mainly of plant material including grasses and grains, but occasionally insect larvae and worms.
Canada Goose Nesting
Canada geese typically mate for life and often return to the same nesting site year after year. These birds build their nests on the ground, near water sources such as lakes or ponds.
During the nesting season, female Canada geese will lay between three and eight eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the goslings will stay with their parents until they are ready to migrate in the autumn.
Snow Goose (Anser caerulescens)
The Snow Goose is one of the most abundant geese in North America, and has been hunted heavily for its meat by humans for centuries; its population has declined significantly since the 1960s due to hunting pressure and habitat loss caused by human activity. These birds are also known to migrate long distances, often flying over 2000 miles in a single journey! They are very social animals, and can be found in flocks of thousands during migration season.
- Scientific Name: Anser caerulescens
- Height: 64 to 79 cm (25 to 31 in.)
- Wingspan: 135 to 165 cm (53 to 65 in)
- Weight: 2.05 to 2.7 kg (4.5 to 6.0 lb)
Snow Goose Description
The snow goose is a large waterfowl that has white plumage with black wingtips and is a species of goose native to North America, the tundra, and grasslands. It has a black neck, white cheeks, and a pale gray belly. It also has a black bill with a yellow tip. Its feet are orange to dull greenish yellow. They are large birds, averaging between 3.2-4.9 kg and often exhibit black bars on their wings and a white patch on the rump.
Snow Goose Sound
Snow Goose Habitat & Range
These birds are capable of flying for long distances without getting rest. It is one of the few species that can fly non-stop for 3,000 miles without stopping for rest or food.
They are mostly found in the Arctic areas, including North America, Greenland and Canada, where their numbers have increased in recent years due to conservation efforts to protect them from extinction.
They migrate south during the winter months when food supplies are scarce.
Snow Goose Diet
They have been known to eat a variety of foods including seeds, roots and tubers as well as insects, snails and small fish. The Snow Goose is one of the few species of geese that have been observed using tools to help them catch prey. They have been seen using sticks or stones as weapons or shields when hunting for food!
They can also dive underwater to get food which means they don’t need to eat on land all the time like other birds do (they can just swim around until they find something they like).
Snow Goose Nesting
Snow geese are known to mate for life. A male will typically find two or three females depending on his age and experience level as a hunter-gatherer type personality. A female may lay up to 14 eggs at once but usually, only 1 or 2 survive because of predators such as other birds like raptors and even humans who hunt them down during hunting season!
Ross’s Goose (Anser Rossii)
Ross’s Goose is an excellent flier but is known for being rather clumsy on land due to its short legs and long body. The wings are broad and have white tips, which are visible when flying overhead or from afar as they flap their wings rapidly while flying low over water bodies such as lakes or rivers (where many other geese stop for food sources). They also make loud honking calls that sound like “honk-honk-honk” while flying overhead; this call seems fitting considering how clumsy they are on land!
- Scientific Name: Anser rossii
- Height: Male: 23.2-25.2 in (59–64 cm) / Female: 22.6-24.4 in (57.3–62 cm)
- Wingspan: 44.5-45.7 in (113–116 cm)
- Weight: Male: 42.3-55.3 oz (1198-1567 g) / Female: 37.6–51.3 oz (1066–1454 g)
Ross’s Goose Description
A mallard-sized white goose with black wingtips and tail, a relatively short neck, and a pink bill and the legs are pink. Very similar to the Snow Goose, which it is often seen with, but is smaller with a smaller bill and a rounder head.
Ross’s Goose Sound
Ross’s Goose Habitat & Range
This bird can be found in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and the Arctic tundra of North America and Eurasia during the summer months.
However, during the winter months, it migrates south to California, Mexico, and Texas where they spend time from November through March each year before returning north again when spring arrives again.
Ross’s Goose Diet
In the summer months, it lives in wetlands, lakes, and rivers where it feeds on aquatic plants. In the winter it moves south to warmer climates where it feeds on grasses, grains, and other types of vegetation. The Ross’s Goose has a unique diet, which includes small fish and insects.
Ross’s Goose Nesting
The Ross’s goose nests near water, often on islands or peninsulas. The nest is a scrape in the ground, lined with vegetation. The female lays three to seven eggs.
Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)
Once considered part of the Canada Goose species, this has now been classified as a distinct species in its own right. It’s high pitched voice distinguishes it from the Canada goose which has a much lower pitched honk.
- Scientific Name: Branta hutchinsii
- Height: 24.8–25.6 in (63–65 cm)
- Wingspan: 43 inches
- Weight: 3.5 lbs
Cackling Goose Description
Very similar to the Canada Goose, but they have rounder heads and shorter bills. On the dark coast the birds are darker than those found on the east coast. The head is black with a white chin or neck strap, with a greyish brown body and black legs, feet and bill.
Listen to Cackling Goose
Cackling Goose Habitat and Range
The Cackling Goose’s breeding habitat is wet meadows near lakes or ponds where they feed on grasses, sedges, and other plants. They nest on the ground in areas that are often flooded by water during the spring months.
In the late summer months when the breeding season has ended, cackling geese will migrate southward towards warmer climates in order to escape cold weather conditions found further north.
Cackling Goose Diet
Cackling Geese are omnivores which means they eat both plants as well as seeds, roots, small animals such as insects or worms, and grasses during the summer months, and crustaceans such as clams or snails. However, their main source of food comes from grazing on grasses along marshes or fields which can be found near large bodies of water such as lakes or rivers.
Cackling Goose Nesting
Only females incubate the eggs (laying between 2-8) and the goslings leave the nest within 24 hours, and fledge at 6 weeks, though they stay with the family for migration.
Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)
The Greater White-fronted goose is named after the white patch at the top of its bill. These are medium-sized geese. It is named for the patch of white feathers bordering the base of its bill. In fact, albifrons comes from the Latin albus “white” and frons “forehead”.
- Scientific Name: Anser albifrons
- Height: 64–81 cm (25–32 in)
- Wingspan: 130–165 cm (51–65 in)
- Weight: 1.93–3.31 kg (4 lb 4 oz – 7 lb 5 oz)
Greater White-fronted Goose Description
The Greater White-fronted Goose is a dusky-brown goose with a long, thin neck and a small bill. It is characterized by its white belly and white patch on its face with orange legs. The bill is pinkish or orange with a white tip.
Listen to Greater White-fronted Goose
Greater White-fronted Goose Habitat & Range
The Greater White-fronted Goose is native to the northern hemisphere in North America and Eurasia. They are found in open areas such as grasslands, wetlands, taiga, arctic tundra, and alpine meadows, pond edges and lakeshores during the summer months and migrate south for the winter months. They prefer to nest on tundra or lakeshores but will nest on rocky beaches if necessary.
The Greater White-fronted Goose can be found in the Arctic tundra of North America, Europe, and Asia. They are migratory birds that breed in Canada, the United States, Iceland, and Greenland. In the winter they migrate south to Northern Africa and southern Europe.
Greater White-fronted Goose Diet
They prefer grassy areas with some water nearby for food sources but can also adapt to other habitats. They also feed on plants such as sedges, grasses, rushes and other aquatic plants as well as insects such as beetles and spiders that live in these habitats. They also eat insects such as moths and worms as well as small frogs or fish.
Greater White-fronted Nesting
The population of Greater White-fronted Geese is estimated at around 10 million birds worldwide which makes them one of the most abundant geese species! They lay 5-6 cream colored eggs in grassy sections.
Does Illinois Have a Resident Goose Population?
Canada geese are a common sight in Illinois, and every year, thousands of these birds migrate to the state in search of food and shelter. While some Canada geese do remain in Illinois year-round, the majority of the population is only present during the warmer months.
However, there is evidence that the number of resident geese is on the rise. In recent years, sightings of Canada geese in Illinois have become more and more common, even during the winter months.
This increase in the resident goose population may be due to a variety of factors, including changes in migration patterns and an abundance of food and water resources.
Hunting Geese in Illinois
If you want to hunt waterfowl in the state of Illinois, you need to be in possession of an electronic state waterfowl stamp and a federal waterfowl stamp.
Can You Hunt Geese in Illinois?
Yes, you can hunt geese in the state of Illinois provided you have the correct permits and stamps. Additionally, you need to be aware of Illinois’ daily bag and possession limits for geese which are as follows (during the regular season):
Canada Goose – daily bag of three (3) with a possession limit of nine (9).
White-fronted Goose – daily bag of two (2) with a possession limit of six (6)
Snow Goose – daily bag limit is 20 birds, with no possession limit (during the fall and winter season)
Where to Hunt Geese in Illinois?
If you’re looking for spots to hunt geese in Illinois, there are a few places you can check out. One option is the Mississippi Flyway, which extends from Minnesota to Mississippi and is a popular spot for migrating waterfowl.
When Is the Goose Hunting Season in Illinois?
The goose hunting season in Illinois usually starts in the month of October. The state developed a five-year plan in 2020 and implemented starting in 2021. You can read the full hunting season of the state of Illinois here.
Conclusion on Geese in Illinois
If you’re looking for an interesting place to bird watch, Illinois is a great option. With five different goose species and three different swan species, there are plenty of opportunities to see some beautiful birds.
Be sure to check out the wetlands in Illinois if you want to get up close and personal with some waterfowl!