Canada geese are monogamous in their breeding behavior. The courtship displays of Canada geese can be very elaborate. They establish a bond (attachment between male and female goose) either on the wintering grounds or on the nesting grounds, and this bond is lifetime. The initial courting behavior involves mutual neck dipping between the two, they then swim out, and turn to face each other; both will begin dipping their necks up and down. The breeding season will vary but usually occurs in our area (Northern Virginia) from February through mid-April.
It is the female who chooses her mate based on his displays of behaviors and how well he demonstrates he can protect her. The female indicates her choice of a male by beginning to follow him on land or water or standing next to him at all times. Once paired, the geese stay bonded until one member of the pair dies. Mated pairs who have been separated for even a short time greet each other with an elaborate greeting display. This display includes loud honking between the pair and head rolling by the male. During head rolling, the neck is extended and the head is rolled back and forth. The geese also raise their head and bodies and flap their wings. During mating season, couples will go off together and be alone. You will see couples grazing on the side of road, in median strips, at office buildings. You will see fewer geese at ponds and lakes, because the couples are off to themselves near the selected nesting site. At the pond or lake, you will see males chasing other males all over the place. There is much noise at this time, while the geese are fighting over who gets a mate or defending the mate that has selected him. They have developed their own complex courting behaviors. Once paired, the geese stay bonded until one member of the pair dies. If a mate is lost, the surviving goose will mourn for a long period of time. The exception in long mourning will be if a young goose who has mated for the first year, and has lost his mate; the survivor may select another mate IF it is early in the mating season.The male will begin to defend the immediate area around the female, once he realizes he has been chosen. Males fight over females with their wings and bills, lots of chasing, biting other males, and honking. The winner approaches the female with his head down and neck undulating. He makes hissing and honking noises. The pairs mate either before or after they have found a nesting location. The female always returns to the same nesting spot each year. The displays that the males perform range from the Head-Up-Tail-Up (male throws his head back and jerks with his tail feathers erect) to the Grunt (male rears out of the water and slowly sinks back down while making a loud grunting sound). Both the male and accepting female then continues the courtship by performing other displays separately or in unison. Mating occurs in the spring on the water and at nighttime (that’s why they aren’t seen mating). Copulation begins with both sexes bobbing their heads up and down and touching their bills to the water horizontally with their necks extended. As the female extends her neck and her wings flattened out, the male “joins” her (while in the water). The female is usually partially submerged or completed submerged (with only head out of water) while copulation takes place. The male stands on her back. After copulation the female bathes while the male faces her and then he bathes.
Breeding season: February-April. Displays of mating behavior, such as males chasing each other, couples separating from large groups, and loud honking all the time, starts in mid to late February, depending on the climate.