Emperor Goose (Chen canagica)

Emperor Goose

[order] ANSERIFORMES | [family] Anatidae | [latin] Chen canagica | [authority] Sevastianov, 1802 | [UK] Emperor Goose | [FR] Oie empereur | [DE] Kaisergans | [ES] Ansar Emperador | [NL] Keizergans


Monotypic species


The white geese are a small group of waterfowl which are united in the genus or subgenus Chen, in the true geese and swan subfamily Anserinae. They breed on subarctic areas of North America and around the Bering Strait, migrating south in winter. Many authorities place these species in the grey goose genus Anser. Indeed, Chen and Anser are anatomically indistinguishable. However, external morphology, biogeography, and molecular data suggest that the white geese are indeed an evolutionary lineage distinct from the grey geese ? from which they split off fairly recently, essentially replacing them in North America. The AOU recognizes this genus as distinct; most other authorities today consider it a subgenus of Anser. Like grey but unlike the Branta black geese, their feet and legs are colored in reddish hues. The bill is also reddish in these birds as in most grey geese, except in adult males of Ross’s Goose which have a blue-black grainy cere. The wingtips are black, as in all true geese, whereas the head is always white without any markings or pattern in adult birds of this genus, which distinguishes them from all other true geese except feral domesticated geese. The rest of the plumage is either white all over, or colored in various dark bluish-grey hues; the latter birds, uniquely among true geese, do not have white uppertail and undertail coverts, though the tail itself may be white. White-phase snow geese of both species can be told apart from feral geese best by the more slender, elegant neck, which is thick-set in domestic geese; these also have a generally heavier body and often lack black wingtips.

Physical charateristics

Alaskan. A small, blue-gray goose, scaled with black and white; identified by its white head and hind-neck. Throat black (not white as in “Blue Goose”). Golden legs.

Listen to the sound of Emperor Goose

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/ANSERIFORMES/Anatidae/sounds/Emperor Goose.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 66 cm size max.: 89 cm
incubation min.: 24 days incubation max.: 25 days
fledging min.: 50 days fledging max.: 60 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 7  


North America, Eurasia : West Alaska, Northeast Siberia


In summer, tundra; in winter, rocky shores, mudflats.
Closely tied to salt water at all seasons. Most nesting areas on low marshy tundra within 10 miles of coast, near sloughs and rivers affected by tides. Flocks in migration stop over on large coastal estuaries. In winter, found along shorelines. Autumn st
rays south to Oregon and California may appear well inland.


May mate for life. Pairs seem to be formed before arrival on breeding grounds.
Nest: Site on small island in pond, raised hummock or shoreline, surrounded by low dead vegetation but with good visibility. Nest is a shallow scrape lined with dead plant material and with large amounts of down.
Clutch 4-6, sometimes 2-8. Creamy white, becoming nest-stained. Females frequently lay eggs in each other’s nests. Incubation is by female only, typically 24 days, up to 27.
Young: Goslings can walk and swim within hours after hatching, usually lea
ve nest in less than a day, following parents to good feeding areas that may be several miles from nest site. Both parents tend young. Adults with broods adopt a threat posture with neck outstretched and bill pointed toward source of disturbance. Young fl
edge in 50-60 days. 1 brood per year.

Feeding habits

Varies with season. On breeding grounds, mostly plant material: roots and bulbs early in season, fr
esh growth of sedges and other plants during summer. In late summer, may feed on crowberry or blueberry. During migration and winter feeds heavily on clams and mussels, also on marine algae and other plants.
Behavior: On breeding grounds, forages mostly on land, grubbing for roots, grazing on fresh growth. During migration and winter, forages on mudflats exposed by falling tides, walking on wet mud or in shallow water.

Video Emperor Goose


copyright: Josep del Hoyo


This attractive goose has suffered a historic decline, and although numbers are higher now than they were fifty years ago, it is thought to still be at risk owing to subsistance hunting and oil pollution. More worryingly, it is expected to undergo a moderate population reduction in the near future owing to climate change, it is consequently classified as Near Threatened.
Emperor Goose status Near Threatened


Northeastern Siberia, western Alaska.
Migration: Timing of migration affected by weather. In spring and fall, flocks may stage for several weeks in lagoons on north shore of Alaska Peninsula before moving on to breeding areas on west coast of Alaska or wintering areas in Aleutians.

Distribution map

Emperor Goose distribution range map

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