Geese in North Dakota (7 Types + FREE Photo Guide)



North Dakota

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Geese are a common sight around North Dakota. From the shores of Lake Sakakawea to the mud flats of the McDowell Dam Nature Park, geese can be seen in every corner of the state.

While these beautiful birds have had an impact on North Dakota for many years, most people do not know about their different habitats or how to tell them apart. This article seeks to shed light on some of these birds.

What Geese Are in North Dakota?

There are five different types of geese in North Dakota.

  • Canada Goose
  • Snow Goose
  • Ross’s Goose
  • Greater White-Fronted Goose
  • Brant

Canada Goose

Canada Goose
Canada Goose Scientific Name: Branta canadensis

Canada Goose Sound


Scientific Name: Branta canadensis

Length: 30 to 43 in

Wingspan: 50–73 in

Weight: 5.7–14.3 lb

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

Snow Goose Scientific Name: Anser caerulescens
Snow Goose Range Map credit:

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.

Ross’s Goose

Ross’s Goose Scientific Name: Anser rossii
Ross’s Goose Range Map credit



Scientific Name: Anser rossii

Length: 23.2-25.2

Wingspan: 44.5-45.7 in

Weight:42.3-55.3 oz

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.

Greater White-fronted Goose

Greater White-fronted Goose Scientific Name: Anser albifrons



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.


Brant Scientific Name: Branta bernicla



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 Resident Geese Flocks in North Carolina?

If you’re looking for a place to watch geese in North Dakota, your best bet is Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Located in the northern part of the state, Long Lake is a popular stopover point for migrating birds as well as a habitat for some resident waterfowl. In addition to geese, you can also see a variety of other waterfowl, including ducks, swans, and cranes.

Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge is another good spot for birdwatching. Located in the central part of the state, Arrowwood offers a variety of habitats for birds, including wetlands, prairies, and woodlands. In addition to geese, you can also see eagles, hawks, and warblers at Arrowwood.

Rock Lake in North Dakota is one of the best places in the state to watch geese. Every year, thousands of geese migrate to the lake, making it a veritable haven for birdwatchers. Rock Lake is also a great place for other activities such as fishing, hiking, and picnicking.

Hunting Geese in North Dakota

Hunting waterfowl in North Dakota requires more than just a love of the sport. Hunters must also purchase the Federal Duck Stamp or a federal waterfowl stamp, as well as obtain a Small Game License if they are residents of the state. Nonresidents may need to purchase a Nonresident Small Game License and/or a Nonresident Waterfowl License. In addition, all hunters must have proof of their participation in the Harvest Information Program (HIP).

Nonresident hunters younger than the age of 16 can obtain a license at the same cost as the resident fee if their home state has a youth reciprocity licensing with North Dakota.

To take part in the North Dakota spring snow geese primer, residents must have a combination license or a small game, and a general game and habitat license.

Resident and nonresident licenses are available on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website.

Can You Shoot a Goose in North Dakota?

Geese are a common sight in North Dakota, and many people enjoy hunting them. However, before you head out into the fields with your gun, it’s important to know the federal regulations for goose hunting.

In North Dakota, shooters must use non-toxic shots when hunting geese. This means that you can’t use a lead shot, as it can poison the bird.

The federal and state regulations also state that you can only shoot geese during specific hunting seasons, shooting hours and within specified hunting zones.

Additionally, you should also be aware of the state’s daily limit.

Where Can I Hunt Geese in North Dakota?

Devils Lake, Kramer, and Rock Lake are all great places to hunt geese in North Dakota.

Devils Lake is especially popular for its large number of geese and its easy access. Kramer is a good choice for hunters who want to avoid the crowds, and Rock Lake is a great option for those who are looking for a more challenging hunt.

All three of these lakes offer great opportunities for hunters to bag their limit of geese. During the early season, waterfowl rest areas are open to hunting but not during the regular season.

It is also allowed to hunt in unposted private lands unless these lands contain unharvested cereal grains and sprouted winter wheat.

Is There a Goose Hunting Season in North Dakota?

The goose hunting season in North Dakota usually takes place from September to January.

Conclusion on Geese in North Dakota

If you’re ever out in the North Dakota countryside, keep an eye out for these beautiful creatures. You may be lucky enough to see one of the five types of geese that call our state home.

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