While birds can make fantastic pets, exotic bird species have the potential to negatively impact our native flora and fauna should they be allowed to escape into the environment.
They have the potential to spread disease, damage agricultural crops, out compete native species and cause damage to natural spaces through over population. The risk of this can be minimised through secure bird keeping practises and reporting wild populations of exotic bird species, such as the Canada goose, to Agriculture Victoria.
How to identify a Canada goose
The Canada goose is a large water bird with a body measuring between 55-100cms in length and a weight of 3-6 kgs. The body of the bird is brown and white, and the long, black neck and head have a white ‘strap’ reaching under the chin from cheek to cheek.
It's important to report Canada goose sightings
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The Canada goose is a habitat generalist and can be found in tundra, semi-desert, wooded, open, coastal or agricultural areas. It is also found in urban areas, showing a preference for open ground with wetlands such as parks and golf courses.
The diet of the Canada goose is varied and includes grasses, stems, roots, leaves fruits and aquatic plants. During breeding season, this species builds a large nest on the ground, often near water. It can be aggressive towards people or pets if disturbed.
This species is widely distributed across the US, Bahamas and Greenland. In winter, some populations migrate south to countries such as Bermuda and Japan. Introduced populations are present in many parts of Europe, the UK, China and New Zealand.
Responsible keeping of exotic birds
The Canada goose is not native to Australia but can be kept in Victoria as an exotic waterfowl species. Please adhere to the following guidelines if you choose to keep an exotic bird species;
- Maintain in a secure, double doored enclosure that allows space for natural behaviours such as foraging, perching or nesting,
- Research the dietary needs of the particular species and provide a balanced and varied diet,
- Consult regularly with an avian veterinarian and seek assistance at the first signs of illness or injury,
- Ensure birds are identified with an appropriate band,
- Do not allow them to escape or intentionally release them into the wild,
- Consider keeping native Australian species as an alternative to exotic species
If seen in the wild, please report the sighting immediately to Agriculture Victoria via our online reporting tool: Report an exotic pest animal sighting | Pest animals | Biosecurity | Agriculture Victoria, or by emailing: email@example.com
Pest Risk and Impact
When detected in the wild the Canada goose is classified as a regulated pest animal in Victoria under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994. It is prohibited in the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Western Australia.
If allowed to establish, the Canada goose poses a threat to Australia due to its generalist nature, wide diet and suitability to adapt to the Victorian climate.
The Canada goose shares habitat preferences with many Australian native waterbird species, increasing potential risks of competition for food, nesting sites and suitable habitat.
Canada geese are known to feed on agricultural crops such as wheat, other cereals, corn, lucerne and soybeans, causing further damage by trampling. This species could also compete with cattle and sheep for pasture and may transmit salmonella to livestock.
In other parts of the world, Canada geese are a nuisance species – grazing and defecating on lawns, playgrounds, golf courses and ponds including in New Zealand where there is an estimated population of 60,000 across the north and south Islands. They are also responsible for regular bird-strike incidents at overseas airports.
In Australia, the Canada Goose may be mistaken for large native or other introduced waterfowl. The long black neck and head, distinctive white facial markings and loud honk should make it easily distinguishable from:
- Cape Barren Geese
- Australian shelduck
- Other domestic geese