Feisty Canada Geese Threat Displays

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Three Canada Geese exhibiting aggressive behaviorThree Canada Geese exhibiting aggressive behavior – Nikon D500, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 320, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Three days ago I photographed Common Mergansers, Northern Shovelers, a Muskrat, a couple of Mallards and Canada Geese at one of the ponds close to where I live. That morning the Canada Geese were the most lively of the subjects I photographed, bathing, mating and exhibiting threat displays.

I was shooting from my tripod that morning instead of being inside a vehicle so I had far more range of movement than I do inside a vehicle but I was also exposed to the biting cold. The warmth of the winter sun shining on me did help some to keep me from being too cold.

The cold didn’t bother the Canada Geese though as they flew in honking and splashing as they landed on the pond. For a bit they weren’t very active then two of them began bathing and then those two geese mated, I photographed those geese and hopefully I will find time to process those images soon to share. Not long after that several of the Canada Geese started to squabble and exhibited some of their threat display postures. It started out with bent neck and forward postures.

Canada Goose threat displayCanada Goose threat display – Nikon D500, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 320, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Then one of them started to chase the other geese with its wings raised slightly and its neck bent all the while calling loudly. I thought it might physically attack the goose that was in front of it just outside of the frame in this image.

Canada Goose exhibiting intense threat displayCanada Goose exhibiting intense threat display – Nikon D500, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 320, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Then it turned back towards other geese that were behind it with its tongue stuck way out with its neck bent and pushed forward while keeping its head just barely touching the surface of the water.

Two Canada Geese in threat displayTwo Canada Geese in threat display – Nikon D500, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 320, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I was close enough to the action that when the second Canada Goose got closer to the one above that I couldn’t fit them both on my frame and I didn’t want to take the time to remove my teleconverter because I knew I would miss the action so I kept firing frame after frame.

These geese got close to each other with their necks extended, wings slightly raised over their stretched out bodies while calling and sticking their tongues out. I wish I spoke “goose” so I could understand exactly what type of communication was going on.

Canada Geese threat displayCanada Geese threat display – Nikon D500, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 320, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

A third goose joined the two that were in threat display but it didn’t show any of the behaviors that the first two were exhibiting, it just watched them. Not long after this frame was taken the geese stopped calling, closed their bills, the threat display ended and their postures changed. The geese floated away from each other like the interaction had never occurred.

Birds sure do make life interesting.


The weather forecast here is looking a bit dismal for the next 6 to 7 days with clouds, snow, rain and even ice. My journeys out into the field may be curtailed for a while.


  1. Lois Bryan January 19, 2017 at 10:16 pm

    Fantastic!!!! But do these images ever bring back the memories … as a kid my Aunt Lil kept a goose. Big white thing. ‘Bout the size of a Volkswagen. And boy, did it ever hate me. Got into the “threat” posture, as you called it, and would chase me all over the farm. I remember staying there for weeks in summer. Had to use the loo late one night, we’re talking no indoor plumbing, and the thought of walking out to the Johnny, with that goose lurking around out there, nearly made poor little Lois a nervous wreck. Fortunately Aunt Lil took pity on me and kept guard as we made the journey to and fro.

    Not a big fan of geese.

    But I surely am of your glorious images!!!!

  2. Utahbooklover January 19, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    Body language in many species is easy to translate without words. I’ve never seen this before. Thanks!

  3. Elephant's Child January 19, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    I am pretty certain from the images that their communication would have resulted in having their mouth washed out if my mother was to hand.
    Great series.

  4. Porcupine January 19, 2017 at 11:48 am

    “Fiesty Canada Geese”, is there any other kind? My 90 pound dog is terrified of them to the point where he wont swim if there is a Canada Goose anywhere on the pond! Great action photos. Love the body language.

  5. Pepe Forte January 19, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Fascinating study Mia. Lots of honking and posturing and sticking their tongues out…then going away with nothing accomplished. Kinda like Congress don’t you think?

    As always, the pics are great with wonderful info! Thanks.

    • Patty Chadwick January 19, 2017 at 12:53 pm


  6. Jane Chesebrough January 19, 2017 at 10:58 am

    I love watching Canada Geese when they return in the spring, with all their postering, as long as they don’t do this to me, in which case I make a hasty retreat. I have heard their bodies collide when being aggressive and pack a lot of power.

  7. Patty Chadwick January 19, 2017 at 9:05 am

    Those two battlers sure look “snakey”! Glad their arguement didn’t end in bloodshed…guess they’re more civilized than we are….great action shots!!! Wonder if the observer wasca female and who they were fighting about…

  8. Bob mcpherson January 19, 2017 at 7:21 am

    Beautiful images,. Mia. Geese are very inte

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