8 Types Of Geese In Iowa (Photo And ID Guide)

This guide will teach you how to identify the various kinds of geese seen in Iowa, as well as when and where you’re most likely to see them, along with some interesting information.

Iowa has been home to eight of the thirteen geese species identified in North America. Except for Canada Geese, who may be seen here all year, they are mostly summer visitors.

A gaggle is a collection of geese. Yet have you heard such phrases as shien, wedge, and a fatter applied to geese?

Or that their territorial behavior and loud honking have been used for centuries to protect pets, people, and even countries!

In the United States, it is illegal to harm geese, their eggs, or their nests without permission from the government. They are protected under the migratory bird treaty. United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

8 Types Of Geese In Iowa:

1. Canada Goose

In Iowa, Canada Geese can be found all year and are very abundant. For the state, they are observed in 32% of summer and 30% of winter checklists submitted by bird watchers.

The Canada Goose, sometimes known as the Canadian goose, is a big, long-necked goose with a black head and a white chin strap that is very distinguishable.

Canada Geese have a similar black head and white chin strap to Cackling Geese, but their long, elegant neck and huge size distinguish them.

Their skin is dark, with a white rump and a light or pale chest. Among the subspecies, the bodies may be gray or brown in color. They have black legs and webbed feet.

  • Branta canadensis
  • Length: 25 – 45 in (64 – 114 cm)
  • Weight: 230.09 oz (6521 g)
  • Wingspan: 70 – 75 in (178 – 190 cm)

Canada Geese are a breed of goose that breeds in Canada and migrates for the winter to southern US states, but does not migrate during the year in northern US states. Western Europe is also home to these animals.

Canada Geese can be found all over the place. They may be found around lakes and rivers, for example, in places where there is a body of water and plenty of food. They also thrive in metropolitan environments such as city parks, reservoirs, golf courses, public parks, and beaches since they are also accustomed to humans.

Their numbers have grown dramatically in certain regions, making them pests.

When on land, Canada Geese eat grasses, while in the water, they eat small aquatic insects and fish. While in agricultural fields, they also consume wheat, rice, and corn. They’ve grown up eating food from people or rummaging through trash bins.

Canada Goose nests are frequently found near water, in an elevated area. In a nest constructed of plant material and down, the female lays up to nine eggs. The male stays nearby, protecting the eggs, while she incubates them for approximately a month.

Their parents bring them to a meal source where they learn to eat when they are hatched. When parents sense danger or threats to their family, they are very territorial and violent.

Fun Fact: Adults lose their flight feathers during the breeding season, since it coincides with their molting season. Just in time for them to fly with their young, they must regain their feathers after twenty to forty days.

2. Greater White-fronted Goose

During the winter, from October to April, you may see Greater White-fronted Geese in Iowa all year. On winter checklists, they appear in 3% of the time.

In Europe, the Greater White-fronted Goose is called the White-fronted Goose, while in North America, it is known as Greater Whitefront.

Greater White-fronted Geese are both huge geese, and both sexes look similar.

They are often misidentified as the Graylag Goose because of their barred feathers, which are mostly gray all-over. The white front, or the white feathers that surround the base of its orange beak, is what distinguishes them. On their underparts, they have black flecks.

  • Anser albifrons
  • Length: 26 – 34 in (66 -86 cm)
  • Weight: 126.98 oz (3599 g)
  • Wingspan: 53 – 60 in (135 – 152 cm)

Greater White-fronted Geese breed mostly in Canada and go to the United States and Mexico for winter in North America. They can, however, be found across Europe and East Asia.

Greater White-fronted Geese breed in western Canada and spend the winter along the West Coast of the United States, The Gulf Coast, and Mexico.

During the breeding season, Greater White-fronted Geese can be found in marshy tundra, wetlands, rivers, and ponds. Agricultural fields, marshes, bays, and lakes are where they spend the winter.

Both land and water are used by Greater White-fronted Geese. They eat agricultural field crops such as seeds and grains. Grasses and berries are also consumed by them. They forage for aquatic insects and mollusks when near water.

In the tundra, shallow depressions are home to Greater White-fronted Geese nests. They generally have three to six eggs and are covered in grass and down. For two to three weeks, the female incubates them.

Fun Fact: Long-term family ties exist between Greater White-fronted Geese. They move as a group, with their children, and the youngsters remain with their parents until the following breeding season.

3. Snow Goose

From November to April, Snow Geese can be found in Iowa, where they make up 2% of winter checklists. Others may be seen throughout the year in the state.

With the exception of black wingtips, a pink beak with a black grin patch, and pink legs and feet, the Snow Goose is appropriately named.

Interestingly, the Blue Goose has a white head and a dark blue-gray body, whereas this variant has a black head. Because of their feeding, both forms of the Snow Geese might have a discolored head.

Both forms have similar sexes, although they may be of different sizes. Males outnumber females in terms of size.

Dusky gray-brown juveniles, and dark gray juveniles, are the white morphs of juveniles. They do, however, continue to have the familiar pink beak and black grin patch.

  • Anser caerulescens
  • Length: 25 – 31 in (64 – 79 cm)
  • Weight: 81.13 oz (2299 g)
  • Wingspan: 54.3 in (138 cm)

Snow Geese spend the winter in the United States, where they breed mostly in Canada.

In freshwater marshes and agricultural grain fields, you may find Snow Geese and Blue Geese together. They prefer salt marshes and coastal bays in the winter, although they will visit plowed fields or wetlands.

Snow geese are vegetarians that eat a lot of plants. Water-logged soil or shallow water is often used to feed them. Grasses, sedges, willows, rushes, and horsetails are among their favorite foods. Seeds, grains, and plants ripped up by their roots will also be eaten by them.

The tundra is home to large colonies of Snow Geese nests. Because females return to the location where they hatched to breed, they build a nest, which is generally a shallow depression on the ground that they may reuse many times.

She lines the nest with grasses and down after she has placed the first three to five eggs. The goslings can defend themselves when they reach adulthood, after spending around twenty-four days in utero.

Fun Fact: When Snow Geese breed for life, they choose the same color morph as themselves.

4. Cackling Goose

From September to May, Cackling Geese can be seen in Iowa during the winter. On winter checklists, they’re seen in 3% of the time.

Canada Geese have a strong resemblance to Cackling Geese, which are indigenous to North America. They were once classified as Canada Goose species, but in 2004 they were elevated to the status of full species.

Cackling Geese, on the other hand, have stubbier bills, steeper foreheads, and shorter necks than Canada Geese.

The white chinstrap subspecies is one of four subspecies that have black heads and necks and are of various sizes and colors.

  • Branta hutchinsii
  • Length: 22 – 30 in (56 – 76 cm)
  • Weight: 105.9 oz (3001 g)
  • Wingspan: 43 – 47 in (109 – 119 cm)

Cackling Geese migrate to the United States for the winter after breeding in Canada and Alaska.

Cackling Geese may be seen in wetlands and meadows year-round. In winter, they often mix with other geese in lakes, marshes, and fields, but in the summer, they prefer to stay on the tundra.

Cackling Geese eat sedges and berries while grazing on grasses in open areas. In agricultural fields, they will also eat wheat, barley, beans, rice, and corn. Aquatic plants are their food source in the water.

Fun Fact: Cackling Geese are easily recognized from Canada Geese because of their distinct “cackling” voice or high-pitched cry.

5. Ross’s Goose

During the winter, Ross’s geese are most often seen in Iowa, although they aren’t particularly common.

Snow Geese, whom Ross’ geese often flock with, are very similar to Ross’s geese. Their little, gray-based red-orange beaks, short and stubby pink-red legs, and black wingtips are the only things that distinguish them from other white birds. Both sexes are relatively identical, with the lady being somewhat smaller.

Ross’ Goose has a black phase variation, however it’s uncommon. It has a brownish beak with a crimson patch, dark gray throats, underparts, and back. It has a white head.

  • Anser rossii
  • Length: 21 – 26 in (53 – 66 cm)
  • Weight: 59.2 oz (1678 g)
  • Wingspan: 47 – 54 in (119 – 137 cm)

Ross’ geese live in the United States throughout the winter and breed in northern Canada.

During the winter, Ross’ Geese may be found in both salt and freshwater marshes. They’ll nest on the arctic tundra throughout the breeding season.

Ross’ geese graze on grass, sedges, and little grains, which they find in wetlands, meadows, and fields. They graze on these foods often.

Ross’ Geese nests can be found on lake islands and in the permafrost of the arctic tundra. Females line their nests with down and construct them on the ground out of grasses, moss, leaves, and twigs. Each breeding female incubates four to five eggs for roughly three weeks.

Fun Fact: The tiniest geese in North America are Ross’ Geese.

6. Brant

In Iowa, Brant Geese are an uncommon sight and have been designated as an accidental species. In the year 2021, they were last seen in Hardin.

A black head, neck, and chest, as well as a white collar or marking on the neck, distinguish the Brant Goose from other geese. Several subspecies exist, with varying degrees of coloration.

  • Branta bernicla
  • Length: 22 – 26 in (56 – 66 cm)
  • Weight: 63.84 oz (1809 g)
  • Wingspan: 43 – 48 in (109 – 122 cm)

Before heading to coastal regions of the United States and Mexico, Brant Geese live in Canada and Alaska. In addition, they live in Europe.

During the breeding season, Brant Geese can be found in tundra, marshlands, islands, and coastal areas. Salt marshes, lagoons, mudflats, and tidal estuaries are where they spend the winter.

In both land and water, Brant geese mainly eat plant matter. They prefer eelgrass, but will eat any grass that is available. Sedges, pondweed, and aquatic insects are also eaten.

In tundra ponds or on rocky hills, Brant Goose nests are often found on tiny islands. They’re downy grass bowls, shallow.

The female deposits up to seven eggs, which take three to four weeks to hatch. The parents take the youngsters to the feeding area after the eggs have hatched.

Fun Fact: Brant geese have a lifespan of up to 28 years.

7. Egyptian Goose

In Iowa, Egyptian Geese are an uncommon species that was last seen near Decorah.

The Egyptian Goose is a decorative bird that has established invasive population levels in a few nations, including zoos and aviaries.

Egyptian Geese have a few features that set them apart from other geese. A brown patch surrounds their golden-yellow or orange eyes. Their bills are pink on top and black on the bottom, and their heads are whitish-gray with some reddish tints at the nape.

Their collar is reddish-brown in color. Their backs and wings are a mix of white, green, brown, and black, while their breasts are tan and their bellies are white with gray linings. Their legs and feet are pink in color.

The head and nape of juveniles are reddish-brown. Their bellies are usually light brown or tan. Dark brown is the color of their backs and wings.

  • Alopochen aegyptiaca
  • Length: 24 – 29 in (61 – 74 cm)
  • Weight: 70 – 77.5 oz (1984 – 2196 g)
  • Wingspan: 52 – 60 in (132 – 152 cm)

Egyptian Geese are found in Europe and North America, despite their African origin.

Egyptian Goose may be found near water in open, wetlands, and non-forested regions. Zoos and aviaries are also common places to keep them.

Seeds, leaves, grasses, and plant stems are all favorites of Egyptian Geese. Algae and aquatic plants, as well as insects and tiny creatures, will be devoured by them.

Seeds, leaves, grasses, and plant stems are all favorites of Egyptian geese. Algae and aquatic plants, as well as insects and small animals, will be eaten.

On the ground and in tree hollows, as well as caves and other animal nests, Egyptian Goose nests can be found. The nests, which hold up to twenty-two eggs and take approximately a month to hatch, are mostly made of grasses, leaves, and down.

Youngsters will be looked after by their parents, although they’ll have to learn to feed themselves.

Fun Fact: Ancient Egypt regarded the Egyptian Goose to be a holy bird, and they are depicted in a lot of their art.

8. Taiga Bean-Goose

In Iowa, Taiga Bean-Geese are an accidental species, and they have not been seen here in a long time, according to records.

The American Ornithological Society recognizes the Taiga Bean-Goose and Tundra Bean-Goose as distinct species, while other authorities group them together as bean gooses.

Dark brown heads and necks, black bills with a yellow-orange band, dark brown throats with gray streaks, and a scaled pattern overall characterize Taiga Bean-Geese.

The Tundra Bean Goose has a smaller orange band on the beak, whereas the Taiga Bean Goose has a greater beak with a broader orange marking.

  • Anser fabalis
  • Length: 30 – 35 in (76 – 89 cm)
  • Weight: 113.6 oz (3219 g)
  • Wingspan: 53 – 64 in (135 – 163 cm)

In Europe, Taiga Bean Geese are most common, but they may visit North America on occasion.

Taiga (swampy, coniferous forests), tundra, wet grasslands, and flooded fields are all places where you may see Taiga Bean-Geese.

Grasses, roots, tubers, seeds, fruits, and flowers make up the majority of Taiga Bean-Geese’s diet. Agricultural lands will feed on cereals and other available crops if they are near by.

Grassy hummocks near water are common places for Taiga Bean-Goose nests. These nests are typically found at the base of shrubs and trees throughout the majority of the year. Grasses, mosses, and other plants are used to construct the nests, which are then lined with down. The female incubates the eggs for four weeks, which she lays in a cluster of four to five.

Fun Fact: The Anser Goose and the Fabalis Bean-Goose are named after their broad beans. Throughout the winter, it was known to graze and forage in bean fields.

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