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Where Do Geese Go In The Winter? (And Why?)

During the winter months, geese leave their cold, arctic breeding grounds and fly south in search of food and a more temperate climate. In North America, geese spend their winters in the US and Northern Mexico where there is plenty of food for them.

Goose flying away in a winter sky

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s likely that you only see geese during winter, since they spend most of their summers in the arctic.

In this article, we’ll learn where geese go during winter. We’ll look at the overwinter spot of the common geese species from every continent, and at domestic geese too.

Where do Geese Go In Winter?

During winter, geese go to their southern overwinter feeding grounds to escape the harsh northern winters, before flying north again to the safety of their northern breeding grouds in spring. The exact winter locations vary by species and according to where their nesting sites are.

Let’s look at some popular summer nesting grounds and see where geese from each area ends up in winter…

Summer Nesting LocationCommon SpeciesWinter Locations
AlaskaBlack Brant Goose, Emperor Goose,
Cackling Goose
Aleutian Islands, West Coast and Central USA, Baja Mexico, British Columbia
Northern CanadaCanada Goose, Snow Goose,Southern United States, Northern Mexico
SiberiaGreylag Goose, Snow Goose, Red-Breasted Goose, Chinese GooseEastern Europe, Southern Europe, United Kingdom, France, North Africa, East Asia
SvalbardBarnacle Goose, Arctic GooseUnited Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium
IcelandBarnacle Goose, Pink-Footed Goose, Greylag GooseUnited Kingdom, Ireland
GreenlandWhite-Fronted Goose, Brent GooseUnited Kingdom, Iceland, Ireland
Sources: US Fish & Wildlife Service, Cornell University Ornithology Lab, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Norwegian Polar Institute

Geese Habitat During Winter

Geese fly south to find food and to escape the harsh winters, so their winter habitats are usually somewhere with a temperate climate, and an abundance of grasses, shoots, leaves, roots, and aquatic plants for them to eat.

Geese are grazing birds, which means they get most of their food by eating seeds, grasses, and aquatic plants.

When looking for a spot to spend the winter, geese prefer to be in or around water, somewhere with plenty of open space, and somewhere with plenty of grass and foliage for them to eat.

Geese usually nest on the shores of wetlands, ponds, lakes, and inland waterways since this gives them plenty of space to take off and the water offers them some protection from predators. Some geese even sleep on the water to keep themselves safe at night.

Read More: Where Do Geese Sleep?

Sleeping Goose
Geese rely on grass and aquatic plants to survive during winter

Where do British Overwintering Geese Come From?

There are several species of geese who spend their winters in the UK, including brent geese grom Iceland and Greenland and Barnacle Geese from Svalbard. 

In addition to the birds who migrate to the UK, there are some geese populations that have been introduced which live year-round in the UK.

These include Canada Geese, which were imported from North America in the 17th century and have become integrated with the local ecosystem.

Canada geese are found in parks, waterways, and rivers around the UK all year round. Although Canada Geese in North America usually migrate, Canada Geese from the UK are non-migratory.

Snow goose in Scotland
Snow geese from the arctic make their winter homes in the West of Scotland

Do All Geese Fly South In Winter?

Geese fly south when the weather at their breeding sites gets too cold for them, preventing them from being able to find food.

Not all geese fly south for the winter. In some parts of the world, geese live year-round, without having to migrate. In North America, this happens a lot in Southern Canada and Northern United States, where the temperate climate and wide open spaces are safe for geese even in winter.

As climate change affects global temperatures, more geese who are used to nesting in Canada and other Northern locations are finding that the mild winters allow them to stay at their nesting sites without migrating south.

This happens because geese migration is triggered by a lack of available food and a drop in temperatures. Geese may simply be waiting for a winter that never arrives.

Where Do Domestic Geese Live During Winter?

Domestic geese are kept all over the world, as pets and as farm animals being raised for meat and eggs. In the winter, farmers usually provide the geese with an indoor coop to keep them safe and warm, and an outdoor paddock where they can exercise and find food.

As a species, humanity isn’t well-known for its kindness to animals, and unfortunately this also bears out with regards to geese.

Although lots of geese are kept in large fields where they can live a happy existence, in some parts of the world many geese are kept in horrific conditions and spend their short lives in constant pain without even enough room even to turn around.

This happens mostly in France and in the former French colonies of North Africa and in Quebec Canada, where the diseased liver of force-fed geese is considered a delicacy

Geese in an open field
The ideal habitat for domestic geese is wide-open grassy spaces near water

Conclusion – Where Do Geese Spend the Winter?

Geese are found on every continent on earth, except Antactica. Depending on the location of their northern nesting sites, geese choose to migrate south to various locations across Europe, North America, Asia, and North Africa.

In general, geese from the Arctic regions of North America choose to fly south to the United States and Northern Mexico during the winter months, when the cold weather makes it impossible for them to find enough food to survive.

In Europe, geese migrate from Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard (Norway) and Siberia to the more temperate regions in Western and Central Europe.

In Asia, geese fly from Northern Russia south to China and all across East Asia.

Geese look for winter feeding grounds close to water and with plenty of open space to keep them safe, and a temperate climate so that they can continue to feed on grasses, sedges, and aquatic plants through the winter.

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