How Long Do Canadian Geese Live? [A Brief Look at Their Life Cycle]

how long do canadian  greese live

Mixed feelings circle the heads of those that live in North America when it comes to the Canadian Goose. Majestic migratory legends or local pests, these birds get a bad rap.

Living an average of 12 years in the wild, with a life span roughly between 10 and 24 years, the Canadian Goose (Branta canadensis) is easily distinguished by its white-collar chin.

Whether you see them as pests or a beautiful part of nature, it’s always intriguing to learn more about the birds of the world.

Let us dive into the life cycle of the Canadian Goose, how long they live in different environments, and what impacts their wide lifespan range.

How Long Do Canadian Geese Live?

As with all life on earth, the lifespan of Canadian Geese ranges greatly depending on their individual capabilities, predators, and various environmental factors.

This can be seen in the wide difference in lifespan when in captivity vs Canadian Geese in the wild.

How Long Do Canadian Geese Live In the Wild?

Canadian Geese live on average between 10 and 24 years in the wild. Although this is a large range, it is not uncommon for these geese to reach 20 years old.

More than half of the geese population is lost during the juvenile stages, as young birds are bigger targets to predators.

Once they reach the adult stages their survivability rate greatly increases.

The oldest recorded Canadian Goose was ringed in Ontario in 1969 and unfortunately short in 2001, making her at least 33 years and 3 months old.

This is not counting years before marking as well as the potential future years the goose could have lived, further indicating the wide lifespan range of these birds.

How Long Do Canadian Geese Live In Captivity?

With external factors removed, Canadian geese can live significantly longer in captivity, and in some cases can reach up to double their expected age in the wild.

Although most reported cases are anecdotal, there have been reports of Canadian Geese living up to 40 years when in captivity, and a single, yet unlikely report of a bird reaching 80.

Summary of The Canadian Goose’s Life Cycle

To better understand how long a canadian goose can live for, it’s helpful to understand the general life cycle of the bird.

Although it is more complicated than stated below, this will give you a good understanding of how the bird is born, reproduces, and migrates.

Breeding (Spring/ Summer)

Canadian Geese are monogamous and are known to mate for life. Although there are cases where pairs will split, these are extremely rare.

Canadian Goose Breeding

That said, if one dies, the other will seek out a new partner.

Canadian Geese rarely breed until their third or fourth year, which could be attributed to the instability in their pairing until approximately 3 years old.

The Geese will remain together throughout the breeding season, as well as the remainder of the year.

During springtime, pairs will break from flocks and begin defending territory, where they will build a nest and lay their eggs.

During this time Canadian geese can become extremely aggressive towards humans, and other geese.

A female will lay a single brood of 2 – 8 eggs which take 25 – 28 days to hatch.

The entire nesting period lasts approximately 42 – 50 days, with the hatchlings leaving the nest after only the second day after leaving their shell.

Juvenile Stages (Summer)

The young geese will, in most cases, spend the entire first year with their parents, often joining other families to form brooding groups, sometimes referred to as creches.

Juvenile Stages

Both parents will vigorously defend their young until they can fly. This occurs at around 10 weeks

The young ducks will always be accompanied by at least one adult during these stages.

Migration South (Autumn/ Winter)

As summer begins to end, temperatures start to drop and food sources start to become scarce, Canadian Geese gather in larger groups and plan to move south.

Migration South

Geese from further north migrate larger distances while those further south may not migrate at all.

Juveniles follow their family groups in the migration and then form new groups with other young Geese in the south during the non-breeding months.

During migration, flocks of Canadian geese can be seen flying cross country in a V-formation.

Migration North (Spring)

As temperatures begin to increase, individual geese and those in pairs prepare to head back to their breeding grounds in the north where they will build a nest and continue the cycle.

Migration North

Uninterrupted, this cycle could continue for up to 30 years before birds naturally die, however, there are numerous factors that limit the lifespan of the Canadian Geese.

What Are The Major Causes Of Death For Canadian Geese?

There are various factors that limit the lifespan of Canadian Geese in the wild. Some of these are a natural part of a natural cycle while others are due to human intervention.

Human Intervention

One of the largest population limits of Canadian Geese is through human intervention.

As these geese are seen as agricultural pests, official legal controls have been implemented which allow for the culling of approximately 500,000 Canadian geese each year.

Without culling the population, the geese would destroy crops and cause food issues in the region.

The irony is that it is due to the urbanization and expanding far lands that have allowed the population of these geese to skyrocket.

Apart from the intentional culling of these birds, they often find fatal interactions with powerlines, cars, as well as aircraft.

Natural Predators

As mentioned before, the majority of fatalities from predators occur when the geese are younger, particularly before fledging (the bird’s first coat of proper feathers).

Once they can fly their potential threats are significantly reduced.

Natural predators of Canadian Geese include but are not limited to:

  • Foxes
  • coyotes
  • Wolves
  • Bears
  • Wolverines
  • Gulls
  • Eagles
  • Ravens
  • Crows
  • Racoons
  • Humans

Food Shortages

As winter approaches food sources become more scarce. Although the birds can survive the cold climate of winter, it is the lack of food that sends them migrating to the warmer south.

Canadian Geese need to eat twice a day to maintain their high metabolisms.

This means that when overpopulation and a depleting food source become a problem, these birds face a risk of starvation.

Although urban lawns and agricultural land have allowed many Canadian Geese to avoid migration, the rapid expansion in population could lead to food scarcity in the future.

Viruses and Disease

Avian flu is a common virus found among birds in North America, and although not seen as a major problem, can and does affect the Canadian Goose population.

Because of shrinking territory and increasing population numbers, diseases and viruses such as avian flu can spread with ease, and in some cases can affect an entire flock.


Canadian Geese are extremely resistant to the cold, and in winter can withstand short bursts of extreme cold.

Although some birds get cold, this is not so common when it comes to the Canadian goose.

That said, these geese can freeze, and in some cases, they do when migration has failed to take place, whether it’s due to a lack of parents to guide the young or other external factors.

This can cause left-behind geese to freeze to death, although it is more likely they will starve first.

What Is The Life Expectancy Of A Canadian Goose?

In the wild, a Canadian Goose’s likeness to survive depends greatly on their age, as well as on environmental factors such as food sources, population, predators, and human intervention. This is why they are often found living between surviving only until 10 years old, or well over 20.

The Life Expectancy Of A Canadian Goose

How Does The Life Expectancy Of The Canadian Goose Compare To Other Geese?

The Canadian goose has the longest expected lifespan when compared to other geese.

The lifespans of other common geese are expected as follows:

  • Greater white-fronted goose: 6 – 10 years
  • Egyptian Goose: 15 years average
  • Swan Goose: 12 – 15 years
  • Brand Geese: 15 – 20 years

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