Canada geese (Branta canadensis) nest in the high arctic, in Northern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and Svalbard. In North America, Canada Geese migrate as far south as Mexico during the winter, and in Europe they migrate as far south as Northern France.
In recent years, due to human intervention and climate change, some geese have changed their migration patterns, or are choosing not to migrate at all.
In this article, we’ll look specifically at Canada geese, explore their migration routes in different parts of the world, and learn how far south they fly during winter.
How Far South Do Canada Geese Migrate?
Canada geese migrate up to 2,500 miles south, depending on the exact location of their arctic nesting grounds and southern overwinter spots.
North American Canada geese nest in the high arctic regions of Northern Canada, and migrate south to the United States and Northern Mexico, a distance of up to 2,500 miles.
In Europe, Canada Geese from Iceland and Svalbard migrate south to the Northern coast of France, a distance of up to 2,000 miles.
These incredible distances are made even more impressive when you consider that they make this journey twice every year, once on the way North, and once on the way South.
Why Do Canada Geese Fly South?
Geese migrate south during winter to avoid the harsh arctic weather where they make their nests, and to be somewhere with enough food to get them through the winter.
Geese breed in the far north, inside the arctic circle. Winter temperatures in Northern Canada regularly fall below -20°F, (-29°C). At this temperature, water and plants freeze, cutting off the main food supply for geese.
After the breeding season, Canada Geese embark on an their long migration south before the inhospitable winter weather arrives.
Do All Canada Geese Migrate South?
Not all Canada Geese migrate south during winter. Geese whose nesting grounds are far enough south already may choose to remain in their nesting grounds year round.
This is happening more frequently due to climate change, which is causing previously uninhabitable regions of the arctic to remain warm enough in the winter to support the geese for the entire year.
In addition to climate change, some goose populations are making themselves at home in our urban areas, where the human population provides enough food and shelter for them that migrating is not necessary.
This happens often when geese nest in or around a park or public waterway where tourists and locals provide ample food for them and there are no natural predators. Although this may seem like a good thing, it means that successive generations of geese forget how to migrate and become dependent on humans to provide for them.
How Far South Can Canada Geese Fly?
Canada geese can cover a total distance of up to 2500 miles, sometimes covering over 650 miles in a single day.
When geese migrate, they will stick to the same paths each year, stopping at the same rest stops along the way as their ancestors have for thousands of years.
Do Canada Geese Migrate to Europe?
Canada geese will not migrate to Europe from their traditional nesting grounds of Northern Canada, however, there are smaller populations of Canada Geese who nest in the Northern European regions of Iceland, Svalbard, and Greenland who migrate to more southern European regions during winter.
Some populations of Canada geese have also been introduced to parts of Europe including Ireland, the UK, Sweden, and France, where they form year-round populations.
When Do Canada Geese Fly South?
Canada geese fly south when the cold winter weather prohibits them from staying in their northern nesting grounds. Typically this happens from around early September until the end of November.
They fly south to avoid the cold and to access a more reliable source of food, before returning to their breeding grounds in April or May the next year.
How Do Canada Geese Know Where to Migrate To?
Canada geese are excellent navigators and have no problem following the same course every year. Using a small concentration of iron present in their inner ear, Canada Geese can use earth’s magnetic field to find their way North or South.
Canada geese are so good at navigating this way that they also manage to find the same rest spots each year too!
To sum up, Canada Geese can fly for up to 2,500 miles south in a single year, from their nesting spots in Northern Canada to their overwinter feeding grouds in the United States and Northern Mexico.
In Europe, Canada Geese fly from their nesting spots in Svalbard, Iceland, and Greenland to their overwinter spots in the UK and Ireland, as well as Northern France, a distance of up to 2,000 miles.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.