The Canada goose (Branta canadensis) is a large wild goose species with a black head and neck, white cheeks, white under its chin, and a brown body. It is native to arctic and temperate regions of North America, and its migration occasionally reaches northern Europe. It has been introduced to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Japan, Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands. Like most geese, the Canada goose is primarily herbivorous and normally migratory; it tends to be found on or close to fresh water.
Canadian Geese are extremely skilled at living in human-altered areas, Canada geese have established breeding colonies in urban and cultivated habitats, which provide food and few natural predators. The success of this common park species has led to its often being considered a pest species because of its excrement, its depredation of crops, its noise, its aggressive territorial behavior towards both humans and other animals, and its habit of begging for food (caused by human hand feeding).
The Canada goose was one of the many species described by Carl Linnaeus in his 18th-century work Systema Naturae. It belongs to the Branta genus of geese, which contains species with largely black plumage, distinguishing them from the grey species of the genus Anser.
Branta was a Latinised form of Old Norse Brandgás, “burnt (black) goose” and the specific epithet canadensis is a New Latin word meaning “from Canada“. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first citation for the ‘Canada goose’ dates back to 1772. The Canada goose is also colloquially referred to as the “Canadian goose”. A persistent urban legend gives the name origin as after an ornithologist surnamed “Canada” but this is false.
The cackling goose was originally considered to be the same species or a subspecies of the Canada goose, but in July 2004, the American Ornithologists’ Union‘s Committee on Classification and Nomenclature split them into two species, making the cackling goose into a full species with the scientific name Branta hutchinsii. The British Ornithologists’ Union followed suit in June 2005.
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