8 Types Of Geese In West Virginia (Photo And ID Guide)

This guide will teach you what species of geese you may see in West Virginia, as well as when and where you are most likely to view them, along with some interesting facts.

West Virginia has been home to eight of the thirteen species of geese found in North America. Except for Canada Geese, which may be seen all year, they are winter visitors.

A gaggle is a collection of geese. Yet, have you heard of geese being given such names as shien, wedge, and plump?

Instead, 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 US Fish and Wildlife Service. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)

8 Types Of Geese In West Virginia:


1. Canada Goose

Every year, Canada Geese can be found throughout West Virginia. They appear on 19% of bird watcher’s summer checklists and 25% of their winter checklists for the state, according to records.

The Canada Goose, commonly known as the Canadian goose, is a large, long-necked goose with a black head and distinct white chin strap that is easily identified.

Canada Geese have the same black head and white chin strap as Cackling Geese, but their long, graceful neck and large size distinguish them from Cackling Geese.

Brown with a tan or pale chest and a white rump, their bodies are brown. The bodies of the subspecies 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 breed in Canada and migrate to the southern United States for the winter, but those in the northern United States do not migrate throughout the year. Western Europe is also home to these creatures.

Canada Geese may be found in practically anyplace. They prefer to live near lakes and rivers, generally in areas with a plentiful food source and water. They thrive in metropolitan environments such as city parks, reservoirs, golf courses, public parks, and beaches because they are also utilized to humans.

They’ve become pests in certain areas because their population has grown dramatically.

When they’re on land, Canada Geese feed mostly grasses, while when they’re on the water, they feed mostly little aquatic insects and fish. When they’re on agricultural fields, they also consume wheat, rice, and corn. They’re used to stumbling across plates of food or rummaging through garbage bins.

Canada Geese nests are frequently found on high ground near water. In a nest built of plant material and down, the female lays up to nine eggs. During the male stays nearby, protecting the eggs, she incubates them for around a month.

Their parents take them to a meal source where they learn to feed themselves when they hatch. When parents sense danger or threats to their family, they are incredibly territorial and violent.

Fun Fact: Adults lose their flying feathers during the breeding season, as it coincides with molting. Just in time for them to fly with their young, they must regrow their feathers over the next twenty to forty days.

2. Snow Goose

During the winter months of September through April, Snow Geese are most frequently seen in West Virginia.

Except for its black wingtips, pink beak with a black grin patch, and pink legs and feet, the Snow Goose is appropriately named because it is totally white.

Surprisingly, the Blue Goose has a white head but a dark blue-gray body, which is a different variation. Due to their feeding, both Snow Goose varieties might acquire a “stained” head from time to time.

Both forms have similar sexes, although they might be of different sizes. Males have a greater size than females.

The dusky gray-brown color of juvenile white morphs is matched by the dark gray color of juvenile blue morphs. They still have their distinctive pink beak and black grin patch, however.

  • 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, but 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 beachy areas during the winter, but will also feed on plowed fields or marshes.

Herbivores and hungry eaters, snow geese are a sight to see. They eat in waterlogged soil or shallow water on a regular basis. Any kind of plant vegetation, such as grasses, sedges, willows, rushes, and horsetails are their favorite foods. They’ll also devour seeds, grains, and vegetation that have been ripped up by their roots.

On tundra, large colonies of Snow Geese nests may be found. Since females return to the site of their birth to reproduce, 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 laid the first three to five eggs. The goslings take roughly twenty-four days to incubate, and they can survive on their own after hatching.

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

3. Greater White-fronted Goose

In West Virginia, Greater White-fronted Geese are seen from November through March during the winter.

White-fronted Goose in Europe and Greater Whitefront in North America are two common names for the Greater White-fronted Goose.

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

They’re frequently mistaken for the Graylag Goose because their barred feathers are mostly gray all-over. The white front, or the white feathers that surround the base of its orange beak, is what distinguishes them. The underbelly of these birds is also black.

  • 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 in Canada during the summer and migrate to the United States and Mexico during winter. They may be found across Europe and east Asia, though.

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, you may find Greater White-fronted Geese in marshy tundra, wetlands, rivers, and ponds. They hide in agricultural land, marshes, bays, and lakes throughout the winter.

Greater White-fronted Geese can be found foraging on both land and water. They eat seeds and grains from agricultural fields, as well as crops. Grasses and berries are also eaten by them. They forage for aquatic insects and mollusks when near water.

In shallow depressions in the tundra, nests of Greater White-fronted Geese may be found. They usually have three to six eggs, which are lined with grass and down. Over two to three weeks, the female nurtures them.

Fun Fact: Long-term family ties exist between Greater White-fronted Geese. The young remain with their parents until the following breeding season, even migrating together with their offspring.

4. Ross’s Goose

The geese of Ross spend the winter in West Virginia, although they are not particularly frequent.

Ross’ Geese, who frequently flock with Snow Geese, are very similar to them. Their little, gray-based red-orange beaks, pink-red legs and feet, and black wingtips are the only parts of them that aren’t white. The female is just a little smaller than the male.

Ross’ Goose has a dark phase variant, yet it is rather uncommon. The head is white, the beak is brownish, there’s a red patch on the bill, and the throats are dark gray.

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

The Ross’ Geese spend the winter in the United States and are a northern Canadian breed.

During the winter, Ross’ Geese may be found in both salt and freshwater marshes. They will nest on the Arctic Tundra during the breeding season.

Ross’ geese eat grass, sedges, and tiny grains foraged from wetlands, meadows, and fields. They are grazers that mostly feed on grass.

In colonies on lake islands and arctic tundra, Ross’ Geese nests are found. Females line their nests with down and construct them on the ground out of grasses, moss, leaves, and twigs. Each maturing female deposits four to five eggs and incubates them for three weeks.

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

5. Cackling Goose

During the winter months, from October through March, Cackling Geese are seen in West Virginia.

Canada Geese look a lot like Cackling Geese, which are indigenous to North America. They were formed into a complete species in 2004, after being formerly members of the Canada Goose family.

With a white “chinstrap” patch, Cackling Geese have black heads and necks. Their bills are small, black, and triangular in shape. They have white bar patterns over their bodies and are light brown or tan in color.

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

The white chinstrap subspecies, for example, has little differences in size or color than the other four subspecies that have black heads and necks.

  • 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 throughout the year. Throughout the winter, they often join flocks and mingle with other geese on lakes, marshes, and fields, but in the summer, they prefer tundra.

Cackling Geese graze on grasses and berries and forage in open areas. In agricultural fields, they’ll also devour crops such as wheat, barley, beans, rice, and corn. They eat aquatic plants in the water.

Cackling Goose nests may be found in colonies or alone. They are generally found near the water in a shallow depression, although they are somewhat elevated. The nests are made out of plant material and down by the females. She will lay up to eight eggs in this nest, which she will incubate for approximately a month.

Fun Fact: Cackling Geese are easily identified from Canada Geese by their high-pitched call or “cackling.”

6. Egyptian Goose

In West Virginia, Egyptian Geese are extremely uncommon, and they were last seen near Brush Creek Falls in 2021.

The Egyptian Goose, which is most often seen in zoos and aviaries, has spread to invasive population levels in certain countries due to its attractiveness.

Egyptian Geese have many features that set them apart from other species. A brown patch surrounds their golden-yellow or orange eyes. The bills are pink on top and black on the bottom, and their heads are white-gray with reddish hues at the nape.

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

The head and nape of juveniles are a deeper reddish-brown. Their bellies are usually tan or light brown in color. They have a dark brown back 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, who are native to Africa, have established populations in Europe and North America.

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 favorites of Egyptian geese. Algae and aquatic plants, as well as insects and tiny animals, will be consumed by them.

In the ground and in hollows of trees, caves, and other animal nests, Egyptian Geese nests can be found. The nests, which hold up to twenty-two eggs and take roughly a month to emerge, are mostly composed of grasses, leaves, and down.

Youngsters will be looked after, but they’ll have to learn how to feed themselves.

Fun Fact: In Ancient Egypt, the Egyptian Goose was regarded as a holy bird, and it is depicted in a lot of their paintings.

7. Brant

Brant Geese were last seen in 2017 near Alpine Lake, and they are seldom seen near West Virginia.

A black head, neck, and chest, a white collar or marking on the neck, and a white rump distinguish the Brant Goose from other geese. Several sub-species exist, the most common of which is lighter or darker in coloration.

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

Before migrating to coastal regions of the United States and Mexico, Brant Geese breed in Canada and Alaska. In addition, they have a home in Europe.

During the breeding season, Brant Geese can be found in tundra, marshes, islands, and coastal regions. Salt marshes, lagoon, mudflats, and tidal estuaries are where they live throughout the winter.

On both land and water, Brant geese eat mostly plant material. They prefer eelgrass, but will eat any grass that is available. Sedges, pondweed, and aquatic insects are among the foods they consume.

Brant Goose nests are often found on little islands in tundra lakes or on raised spots. They’re made of down-lined grass bowls.

Females lay up to seven eggs, which take three to four weeks to hatch. The parents bring the juvenile to the feeding site after the eggs have hatched, so they may feed themselves.

Fun Fact: Brant geese may live up to 28 years in the wild.

8. Barnacle Goose

In West Virginia, barnacle geese are an uncommon species that has only been discovered once and hasn’t been seen in the state for a long time, according to records.

Medium-sized yet delicate-looking geese are Barnacle Geese. Their bills are small and black, and their head, neck, and upper chest are black. Their bellies are white, and their wings and back are silver-gray with black and white stripes.

V-shaped rumps and silver-gray linings are visible while in flight.

  • Branta leucopsis
  • Length: 23 – 28 in (58 – 71 cm)
  • Weight: 62.4 oz (1768 g)
  • Wingspan: 52 – 56 in (132 – 142 cm)

The North Atlantic is home to Barnacle Geese, who breed and spend the winter in eastern Canada and northern US states.

Salt marshes, green meadows, pastureland, and agricultural fields are all good places to look for Barnacle Geese. They typically roost on islets, islands, and near-shore cliff ledges throughout the breeding season.

Grass is the major food of Barnacle Geese, whether they are on tundra, near water, or in farmland. When near water and crops and grains in fields, they also feed on aquatic vegetation and insects.

To safeguard the eggs from predators, Barnacle Goose nests are often built on cliff ledges. The nest is lined with soft down feathers and constructed with mud and dead foliage by the female.

The female lays five eggs and incubates them for twenty-five days. When the eggs hatch, the young are led to marshes with plenty of vegetation so that they can feed themselves. They fledge after about forty-five days.

Female deposits five eggs and incubates them for twenty-five days. The immature are taken to marshes with plenty of vegetation after the eggs hatch, so that they may feed themselves. After about 45 days, they were able to fly.

Fun Fact: Barnacle Goose is named after a Medieval Legend that states they originated from Barnacles.

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