Canada goose calls are some of the most commonly heard sounds in north american wetlands.
But have you ever wondered what these calls actually mean?
Most Canada goose calls relate to territorial and courtship behaviors, as shown in the following video:
Additionally, it’s possible to identify male and female Canada geese by their voice, which can help us further interpret goose behavior.
This difference is also shown in the above video. Or check out the sections below for audio samples & interpretation:
Male And Female Geese Have Distinct Calls: Can You Hear The Difference?
Male and female goose calls are extremely similar, but can be distinguished if you listen carefully to the honking.
Male Canada geese have voices that are slightly lower pitched and last for a slightly longer period of time than females. Can you hear the difference in these audio recordings?
The difference between these calls is extremely subtle but the trick is to compare male and female calls as they honk in rapid succession.
It’s extremely common for courted males and females to honk in rapid sequence.
Listen for the slightly higher pitched honks in this following audio to separate out the male and female.
Male And Female Together
This spectrogram shows the same sequence of canada goose calls from the audio above. Notice the male and female goose calls are color-labeled.
If you listen carefully to the audio, you may be able to hear the difference in pitch between males and females.
Knowing the difference between male and female geese by their calls is extremely useful for discerning the primary reason why geese are calling.
This is because territorial behavior primarily involves the males, while courtship behavior includes both male and female Canada geese calling together.
Territorial VS Courtship Calls In Canada Geese
Canada Geese are extremely territorial birds who make a lot of extremely noisy calls during territorial situations.
One of the hallmarks of territorial calls is they are primarily done by the males.
In the following recording, you’ll hear a pair of canada geese approaching a wetland from the air. Then a male already at his nesting territory responds with a loud sequence of territorial honks:
As you study the Canada geese in your area, you may notice it can be extremely difficult to sort out all this activity by sound alone.
For most beginners the easiest way to interpret these calls is by their associated body language.
The key to understanding body language in Canada geese is to pay close attention to the neck position and which direction they are focusing their attention.
The male goose makes loud honking sounds and sticks his head out in the direction of approaching geese, but notice the female is still relatively calm and quiet.
If you want to see a video example of this call and body language, I showed it several times in the video at the top of this page.
Courtship Calls And Associated Body Language
Courtship calls are made between pairs of Canada geese throughout the mating season when their nest sites are not under direct threat from other geese or predators.
To the untrained ear, these calls sound almost identical to the territorial calls in the previous section, however the key thing to notice is there are both male and female geese are calling together.
The body language is also completely different as they face towards each other rather than an intruder.
In courtship behavior, the male and female direct their calls and attention towards each other, sticking their necks forward and calling in a rapid sequence that lasts anywhere from 10-45 seconds or so.
Notice how their body language points inward (towards their partner). In the case of territorial behavior or other threats, their necks will point outwards (towards the threat).
This process repeats every time something significant happens in their life, like moving to a new area, fending off an intruder or rejoining together after being apart.