Mystery not exactly solved

In the category of who really cares, but we aren’t going anywhere so what the heck, look up unnecessary facts: what do you call a group of these birds?

Those honkers who come around mostly in the spring who crap all over the sidewalks and open fields are technically Branta canadensis.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes them as: “A familiar and widespread goose with a black head and neck, white chinstrap, light tan to cream breast and brown back.” Carl Linnaeus, writing in Latin, called it Anas canadensis, (Anas Is classic Latin for duck), it then became Branta canadensis or ‘burnt’ (black headed) goose found in Canada.

Therefore we have the name for one of them, grammatically what is correct for a group of them? There is a sense that any goose found in Canada could be referred to as a ‘Canadian Goose’ and a group would be ‘Canadian Geese‘. But, the correct scientific name, is not ‘Canadian’ it is canadensis. So, to call a group Canadian Geese would grammatically and scientifically incorrect.

The case for calling a group ‘Canada Geese’ does have an urban myth mystery involved. The theory goes that a taxidermist named John Canada ‘discovered and named’ the bird. Well…there was no such man and the bird’s presence was noted by Linnaeus long before this myth started. Therefore to contend that you can’t say Canadian because it was a man’s name doesn’t hold water.

Laura Erickson, the writer from the Minnesota Ornithological Society, correctly points out that the bird gets it’s name from it’s breeding range. So unless you have looked at the bird’s passport or some other identification telling you it’s country of origin it should be called a Canada Goose. And the plural is: Canada Geese.

Look, Canada Geese.

2 responses to “Mystery not exactly solved”

  1. I was corrected by someone that it was Canada Geese. Doesn’t make sense to me either.


  2. Denise Flanders Avatar
    Denise Flanders

    Well, I’ll sleep better now.



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