When most people think of geese, they probably picture the large flocks that migrate through Pennsylvania during the fall and winter.
But there are several different species of geese that can be found in our state throughout the year. Some stay in Pennsylvania year-round, while others only visit for a brief period.
What Geese Are in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania is home to eight species of geese.
- Canada Goose
- Snow Goose
- Ross’s Goose
- Cackling Goose
- Greater White-Fronted Goose
- Barnacle Goose
- Pink-footed Goose
Swans in Pennsylvania include Tundra Swans, Trumpeter Swans and Mute Swans.
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.
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.
Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus)
- Scientific Name: Anser brachyrhynchus
- Height: 60–75 cm (24–30 in)
- Wingspan: 135–170 cm (53–67 in)
- Weight: 1.8–3.4 kg (4.0–7.5 lb)
This is a rare visitor to North Eastern US, but becoming increasingly more common as it migrates with other geese species. It is a small goose which breeds in the Artic.
Pink-footed Goose Description
The Pink-footed Goose is a medium-sized goose with a pinkish bill and legs, as well as a white belly. It has a white head and neck with a black stripe running down its back and a black tail. The body is white except for a black breast, belly, and vent. The bill is yellow and red, with yellow on top and red on the bottom. The legs are pink.
Listen to Pink-footed Goose
Pink-footed Goose Habitat & Range
It’s a migratory goose that breeds in Iceland, Greenland, and Scandinavia. It winters on the coasts of North America and Europe. They are also known for gathering in large flocks to feed or roost together during migration.
In winter, they migrate south to warmer climates in Europe or Africa. The population is large enough that they can survive in areas where there is no natural water source for them to nest in—they simply dig holes in dry grassland instead.
Pink-footed Goose Diet
Pink-footed geese feed on aquatic plants, including algae and tubers such as sedges and grasses; they also eat small fish and invertebrates such as snails or worms when they can find them.
Pink-footed Goose Nesting
They breed on the Arctic tundra near ponds or lakes that have open water in summer. Their nests are made formed in rocky crags. They lay 3-6 eggs per clutch and both parents incubate them for about 25 days.
Brant (Branta bernicla)
The black brant is the smallest and darkest member of the ” true geese ” (i.e., those belonging to the genus Branta ), with a body length of 50–60 cm (20–24 in). It has a short, stout bill and legs, and is slightly smaller than the Canada goose. The black brant is a gregarious bird, forming large flocks outside the breeding season. It feeds on grasses and other aquatic plants, and will uproot crops if its numbers are high enough.
- Scientific Name: Branta bernicla
- Height: 55–66 cm (22–26 in)
- Wingspan: 106–121 cm (42–48 in)
- Weight: 0.88–2.2 kg (1.9–4.9 lb)
The Brant is similar to the Canada Goose with a black head and neck with a white neck collar, but is smaller with a shorter neck, with dark bellies. There are several subspecies which have different coloration on the bellies and sides, known tas the Black Brant or the Pacific Brant, the Pale-bellied Brant or Atlantic Brant and the dark bellied brant breeds of Europe.
Listen to Brant
Brant Habitat & Range
The brant goose is a migratory bird, wintering in southern Europe, Africa, and western Asia. It is an occasional vagrant to North America, where it is most often seen in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States.
It can be found in North America and spends most of its time in coastal waters. Brant migrate from their wintering grounds back to their breeding grounds each year.
Most brant geese feed only on a single species of seagrass, known as eelgrass. They also eat sea lettuce, but their primary food source is eelgrass. They prefer eating at night because it’s easier to spot prey when it’s dark out (they have poor eyesight). Brant prefers living near bodies of water such as lakes or oceans because they need water to survive – without it, they would die within days.
Females lay 3-5 eggs in a nest of moss and down.
Where to Watch Geese in PA?
Willow Point at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lancaster County is a popular spot to watch geese and other waterfowl in Pennsylvania.
From early fall to late winter, waterfowl congregate by the tens of thousands at Middle Creek to rest and feed before heading south for the winter.
Each year, more than 200,000 birds use the lake along their migration routes, making it one of the most important stopover sites for migrating waterfowl on the Atlantic population on the Atlantic Flyway in the fall migration.
Are There Any Resident Geese Flocks In Pennsylvania?
There are several different populations of Canada geese in the state of Pennsylvania. The migratory bird treaty act protects these geese, so it is illegal to hunt them.
Canada geese also lose their flight feathers from June to August, in which time it is not allowed to harrass them. The Southern James Bay population migrates to Pennsylvania every year. They mate and nest in the area before heading back to their wintering grounds in Canada.
There is also a resident population of Canada geese that live in Pennsylvania all year round. This population does not migrate, but they do travel to different parts of the state depending on the season.
In the winter, they can be found near open water sources where they eat aquatic vegetation, and in the summer, they often move to higher ground to breed.
Geese Hunting in Pennsylvania
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, goose hunting is allowed in the state with a few restrictions.
Waterfowl hunters must have a license and a permit to hunt waterfowl. They must purchase a waterfowl stamp for their license.
Can You Shoot Geese in PA?
When it comes to hunting geese and other waterfowl in Pennsylvania, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
First and foremost, you can only use non-toxic shots that have been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Additionally, the use of any sort of artificial substance or product as bait or an attractant is strictly prohibited.
Most importantly, you should be aware of the daily bag limits as well as possession limits on waterfowl in Pennsylvania.
Goose Hunting Spots in Pennsylvania
The Susquehanna River is one of the most popular goose hunting spots in Pennsylvania. The corridor near Harrisburg is especially popular, as it provides easy access to the river and its many tributaries.
The Susquehanna is home to a large population of geese, making it a perfect spot for hunting.
Is There a Goose Hunting Season in Pennsylvania?
September marks the beginning of goose hunting season in Pennsylvania.
This season runs until January, giving hunters plenty of opportunities to bag their limit. The most popular types of geese to hunt in Pennsylvania are the Canada goose and the snow goose.
Conclusion on Geese in the State of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is a great place to see geese and swans. The state has eight species of geese and three species of swans.
If you are looking for an exciting birding adventure, make sure to visit Pennsylvania. There are plenty of locations where you can view these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.