If you’ve ever looked up at the sky while birdwatching and seen birds making a beautiful v formation, you could have spotted geese during their migration.
Geese, like most birds, usually move away from their homes in winter in search of warmer habitats.
Do all geese migrate? Almost all geese species migrate. But, as cold temperatures in the arctic and tundra regions of the world have been decreasing, this has resulted in geese migration becoming shorter, and some geese species don’t migrate at all.
In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about geese migration, such as why geese choose to migrate.
We’ll also look at why this information is essential to have in your back pocket when you’re preparing to go on a goose hunt.
Why Do Geese Migrate?
It’s important to note that geese migrate for bigger reasons than simply the freezing temperatures in their habitat.
It’s more about the consequences that can arise from such icy temperatures: mainly, a lack of food, although they might travel north to find better habitats for their offspring.
When the weather takes a dive, there’s usually a shorter supply of food available for geese, especially in their breeding grounds.
This is what pushes them to migrate to areas where the food sources, such as aquatic plants, haven’t become frozen over as a result of the icy cold weather. Migration, therefore, ensures their survival.
As we mentioned earlier, not all waterfowl migrate. An example is Giant Canada, a species of goose that’s related to the smaller Canada geese.
When geese such as these opt-out of bird migration, this affects the future of the population.
If adult geese don’t migrate nor teach their goslings how to travel, the smaller geese can also grow up choosing not to be migrant birds.
In recent years, climate change has greatly affected geese migration. With regions becoming warmer in North American areas, many geese, such as the resident Canada geese, delay or put a complete stop to migrating as far south as they used to.
When Is Geese Migration Season?
Most geese live in the northern hemisphere. They will migrate every winter, but the exact time of geese migration will vary depending on the cold temperatures.
If the weather has become colder in autumn than it used to be in previous years, geese will leave their habitats earlier to migrate. If the weather is still moderate or mild during winter, then this can delay their migration.
Geese will also take note of environmental conditions to figure out when to migrate, such as shorter daylight hours and a lack of food resources.
When they choose to migrate, geese travel fast – they can reach speeds of over 30 miles per hour – and they beat their wings instead of gliding through the sky. This takes a lot of energy, so they like to fly at nighttime.
This ensures that the conditions are more conducive to their migration, such as that the air is calmer so they don’t have to struggle with cloudy or windy conditions.
Sometimes, geese will choose to migrate during the day if there is a tailwind present. They try to prevent flying into headwinds which can force them to move backwards and also causes them to have to put in even more effort to fly.
Where Do Geese Go?
Since food sources and cold temperatures are what motivate geese to migrate, geese head to warmer climates when it’s cold in their habitat.
Geese choose various locations, such as central and western Europe, southern Canada, and the USA.
- Geese that form part of central Asian goose populations will go to Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent during the winter.
- Canada geese, by comparison, which are the most popular geese in North America, have nesting habitats in arctic regions of Northern Canada and so they’ll head south to the United States and Northern Mexico – a trip that can cover up to 2,500 miles!
- Other types of geese that will migrate to and from the US include the snow goose, Brent goose, white-fronted goose, cackling goose, and Ross’s goose.
Depending on where the geese originate from, they might migrate further away from home or not travel very far. For example, geese that hail from the northern regions tend to travel to the furthest southern regions.
Southern geese don’t migrate as far as the northern populations, though.
Interestingly, it’s thought that northern breeders travel further south to prevent food competition with the southern geese populations.
How Do Geese Know Where To Go?
Without GPS and other navigational tools that you love to use to find your way when lost, you might wonder how geese will know where to travel and how they find their way there.
- Geese learn how to migrate from their parents, who assemble migratory bird groups and head south with them. But sometimes, their parents can be of the human variety. Some humans who have raised geese are capable of teaching geese migration routes by leading them in light aircraft.
- Geese learn how to navigate their route as a result of experience. They use various landmarks to mark their way, such as mountains and coastlines or bodies of water. Sometimes, they even use celestial markers to help them find their way, such as the stars or the sun.
- Interestingly, geese are designed with a compass-type of structure in the brain that enables them to tell the difference between north and south, and they do this by detecting the earth’s magnetic field.
Other Things To Know About Geese Migration
- When flying to a new habitat, geese fly in a v formation. They take turns flying at the front so that they can all get time to rest instead of leading the large flock to their new destination.
- If you’ve heard the honking sounds they make, that’s the sound used by some geese to keep the rest of the flock in order!
- Interestingly, geese that breed in a certain area will usually migrate along similar migratory routes. These routes are known as flyways, and there are various ones around the world. In the Americas, there are three flyways. These are the Pacific Americas Flyway, Atlantic Americas Flyway, and Central Americas Flyway. They connect the high arctic to the southernmost tip of South America.
Why Should You Care As A Hunter
If you want to hunt geese, it’s in your best interest to know more about geese migration and where geese will be headed for the winter. This is for various reasons.
- If you hunt geese that you know are moving to a new environment and searching for locations in which they can find food and rest, then you’ll be able to increase your hunting success by tracking them and knowing where to expect them. You’ll also be able to hunt geese that are migrating overhead.
- You can also take advantage of the fact that geese which are new to a specific area will be more likely to respond to decoys and calling sounds, which can help you to hunt them more effectively.
- By knowing how geese fly during their migratory flights, you can also choose the best geese to hunt. The front part of the bird’s migration flock is usually made up of mature geese and these can be tricky to hunt, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience. They’re also more aware of decoys, so they’re less likely to fall for your attempts. By comparison, hunting birds that are in the middle or at the back of the flock will enable you to hunt younger geese. These have less experience and are more vulnerable to a goose.
Geese migration is fascinating to learn about, and it can also teach you some useful tips for the next time you want to hunt geese. By knowing more about why and when geese migrate, you can better plan your hunting adventures.
In this article, we’ve featured information about geese and why they migrate, looking at what causes them to move to other habitats, where they go, and how they manage to map their flights.