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The eight currently recognized species of North American geese are part of a familiar group of birds collectively called waterfowl, all of which are smaller than swans and generally larger than ducks. They include the most popular of our aquatic gamebirds, with several million shot each year by sport hunters. Our two most abundant waterfowl, the Canada goose and snow goose, have populations collectively totaling about 15 million individuals. Like swans, the lifelong pairbonding of geese, their familial care, and prolonged social attachment to their offspring are legendary. Their seasonal migratory flights sometimes span thousands of miles, and the sight of their long, wavering flight formations are as much the symbols of seasonal change as are the spring songs of cardinals or the appearance of autumnal leaf colors.

This book describes each species’ geographic range and subspecies, its identification traits, weights and measurements, and criteria for its age and sex determination. Ecological and behavioral information includes each species’ breeding and wintering habitats, its foods and foraging behavior, its local and long distance movements, and its relationships with other species. Reproductive information includes each species’ age of maturity, pair-bond pattern, pair-forming behaviors, usual clutch sizes and incubation periods, brooding behavior, and postbreeding behavior. Mortality sources and rates of egg, young, and adult losses are also summarized, and each species’ past and current North American populations are estimated. In addition to a text of nearly 60,000 words, the book includes 8 maps, 21 line drawings, and 28 photographs by the author, as well as more than 700 literature citations.


ISBN 978-1-60962-095-0 ebook

Publication Date



Zea Books


Lincoln, Nebraska


birds, ornithology, emperor, greater white-fronted, snow, Ross's, Canada and cackling, barnacle, brant


Animal Sciences | Behavior and Ethology | Biodiversity | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Ornithology | Other Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Poultry or Avian Science | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology


Text, photos, and illustrations copyright © 2016 Paul A. Johnsgard

The North American Geese: Their Biology and Behavior