In Massachusetts, there are several different populations of Canada geese. The first two populations (groups) are the migratory populations which pass through in the spring and fall. Massachusetts is one of many resting areas for these migrating birds.

Atlantic Population (AP)

One population called the Atlantic Population (AP) (Branta canadensis interior) breeds in northern Quebec on the Hudson Bay and Ungava Bay coasts with a few birds nesting in interior portions of the Ungava Peninsula. These birds tend to migrate south along the Hudson River and are seen in western Massachusetts. These birds begin moving through Massachusetts in October and have largely passed through by November. Few of these birds winter in Massachusetts, but biologists believe that a few hundred overwinter on the Connecticut River by the Coolidge bridge in Northampton.

North Atlantic Population (NAP)

The second migrant population is the North Atlantic Population (NAP), largely Branta canadensis canadensis. This group of geese nests in Labrador and Newfoundland and migrates later, generally not leaving their nesting grounds until November and December, though some may gather in a larger group on Prince Edward Island before moving south. This is a maritime population which normally stays within 10 miles of the coast. These birds winter primarily in southern New England and Long Island, NY but occur as far south as New Jersey. A significant portion of geese wintering in Buzzards Bay and along Cape Cod are NAP birds. The number of NAP geese wintering inland varies with the winter snow conditions. If we have extensive snow cover in December, these geese continue to move south to the coast but if December is open some of these geese will overwinter with our resident geese.

Resident Population

The third groups is the resident population: descendants of captive geese used by waterfowl hunters (and also waterfowl breeders.) When live decoys were outlawed in the 1930s, many captive birds were liberated. With no pattern of migration, these geese began nesting. Lawns at houses, golf courses and mowed parks, well-watered, fertilized and bordering water, provided an excellent source of food. In suburban areas, there were few predators. The habitat for grazers was perfect.