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The author of a question on our site referred to a certain type of goose as a Canadian goose. Some people thought that the correct name is Canada goose, rather than Canadian.

Wikipedia refers to them as Canada Goose but will redirect from Canadian Goose.

I have always heard them referred to as Canadian Geese. Which is the correct term?

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    Lived most my life in Canada and have never heard them referred to as Canadian goose. – Ken Graham Jan 9 '18 at 13:34
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    The name of the bird is Canada Goose. ("It is of course perfectly acceptable and correct to call one a ‘Canadian goose’ if you see its passport or some other verification of its citizenship." Wikipedia redirects the mistake to the right place. – Drew Jan 17 '18 at 0:00
  • The relative commonality of usage doesn't provide conclusive proof of correctness. I have heard people in my area use the term Canada Goose a could times in 5 decades, but it's almost always Canadian Goose. Usage can change over time, of course, or just be completely wrong, but common. @ab2 provides an answer with good evidence. – Don Branson Jun 26 '18 at 12:37
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According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the name is Canada Goose.

The big, black-necked Canada Goose with its signature white chinstrap mark is a familiar and widespread bird of fields and parks.

Many of them are not even Canadian, having emigrated permanently south to the lower-48.

Thousands of “honkers” migrate north and south each year, filling the sky with long V-formations. But as lawns have proliferated, more and more of these grassland-adapted birds are staying put in urban and suburban areas year-round, where some people regard them as pests.

However, nothing is ever simple. The Latin name is Branta Canadensis, which, if I remember my long ago Latin correctly, is Goose of Canada, or Canadian Goose.

Moreover, according to Cornell:

At least 11 subspecies of Canada Goose have been recognized, although only a couple are distinctive. In general, the geese get smaller as you move northward, and darker as you go westward. The four smallest forms are now considered a different species: the Cackling Goose.

This article consistently calls them the Canada Goose, and never once Canadian Geese.

Avibase, the World Bird Database, is an excellent source for all the subspecies of the Canada Goose. It has a taxonomic breakdown of the entire Branta species group. Following the links leads to specific information about each variety. It also lists synonyms in virtually every well-known language. Everything is cross-referenced and linked to the various ornithologists from which the information originates. (Note that even some of the geese specifically native to Canada, such as the Vancouver Goose, are still called Canada Geese, not Canadian Geese.)

This 10-page document from 1951, published by the American Museaum of Natural History in the City of New York is a study of the taxonomy of Canada Geese with a lot of interesting scientific information.

So, people with PhDs in ornithology call them the Canada Goose. But what do people without PhDs call them? One example: Nordstrom's sells an outerwear brand called Canada Goose.

Languagehat.com claims, without offering proof:

The vast majority of English speaking people call the goose that is large and has a black head -— Branta Canadensis -— a Canadian Goose. However, its original name was a CANADA Goose.....

However, the data from N-grams contradicts Languagehat. Canada goose is more frequently cited, according to N-grams than Canadian goose, and always has been. The data for Canadian geese is more complex, with Canadian geese dominating ca 1840, and currently on the upswing. According to N-grams, Canada goose dominates over Canadian goose and Canada geese dominates over Canadian geese. Thanks to @Alan Munn for the N-grams link.

Conclusion, from these and other references on Google:

Canada Goose is prescriptively correct. However, "west of the Atlantic" is a big area, with many local terms and dialects and filled with people who do not care what PhDs in ornithology or English say. If enough of them eventually say Canadian Goose, then that might become a "correct" term too.

For TGO, I recommend we stay with the terminology of Cornell, the Audubon Society, all the other ornithological experts, and Nordstrom's, and follow N-grams and say Canada Goose.

Footnote: There is also the Canada Lynx, which currently is doing fairly well in the U.S., although that might change. (There is a gorgeous pic in the link.)

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    The quote from Languagehat is very misleading, since that page is simply quoting a birding page. Do you have any evidence that "the vast majority of English speaking people" use the term Canadian Goose? As a Canadian I've only heard Canada Goose except from non-native speakers. And as a linguist, bold claims like "the vast majority of X" need actual data to be supported. Google Ngrams certainly doesn't suggest that Canadian has replaced Canada at all. goo.gl/Ei3aSW – Alan Munn Jan 9 '18 at 15:08
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    @AlanMunn: As another (anecdotal) data point, I've only ever heard "Canada goose" in the UK (and we have plenty of the things over here, too). – psmears Jan 9 '18 at 15:18
  • Just to clarify my comment. I agree that usage trumps prescriptivism generally, but I don't think there's enough evidence to claim that the most common colloquial name for the bird is Canadian goose. It may be common among American English speakers but we really don't know to what extent, and the Ngram data suggests that it definitely hasn't overtaken Canada goose. – Alan Munn Jan 9 '18 at 16:42
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    Here in Canada we call them Canada geese as well. – DJClayworth Jan 9 '18 at 18:52
  • @Alan Munn Thanks for making the point about the languagehat claim. I wondered about it myself, but was lazy, just plain lazy! Have edited in response to your comment. – ab2 Jan 9 '18 at 19:51
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In British English there's no doubt. Sources including the prestigious Royal Society for the Protection of Birds use Canada Goose every time (often abbreviated to Canada in the field) . But bird names in common use do vary internationally (e.g. Diver vs. Loon), so I make no statement as to use west of the Atlantic.

If someone mentioned a Canadian goose, that wouldn't actually tell us the species. Using Canadian to refer to a goose would only make sense in an sentence like "That ringed Barnacle is Canadian, I've looked up the rings online".

  • I make no statement about use west of the Atlantic. For all I know, they're just called goose in Canada. – Chris H Jan 9 '18 at 7:57
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eBird, which is for recording species lists created by the Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology uses "Canada Goose". But, it should also be noted (as others have already done so) that the common name for a bird in one place is not something others may use elsewhere. That is why scientists use the Latin names as Olin pointed out. By using the Latin name, everyone knows what everyone else is talking about.

Here is an page from eBird that shows this use of common names around the world. You can set your eBird list of common names.

Common Name Translations in eBird

Another example of how common names differ around the world is by looking at North American raptor names and European raptor names. Europeans use the term "buzzard" to describe some species of hawks while North American species of vultures are sometimes referred to as "buzzards".

It should also be noted that common names change. There was once a sparrow hawk in North America. This name waws even used in the guidebooks. But, now they are referred to as the American Kestrel. So, common names should not be taken as being written in stone.

Even scientific names will change as DNA studies become more common. Here is a recent article about that:

Here Are the Biggest Changes to the AOU Checklist of North American Birds

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For branta canadensis, it is "Canada Goose". As I suggested in my previous answer to a related question of yours, language is a stupid form of communication.

Reputable sources in this link say it is "Canada goose" and give several examples of similarly named animals (or plants) that do and do not fit the nomenclature:

  • Canada rice
  • Canada thistle
  • Canada violet
  • American crow
  • Cuban parakeet
  • Jamaican lizard cuckoo
  • California condor
  • Arizona woodpecker
  • Louisiana waterthrush
  • American robin

Canada (or Canadian?) geese

  • "Language is a stupid form of communication" ?! What is the alternative? Even Vulcans, with their advantage of mind-melding have a language and use it. Please give the link to your earlier answer. – ab2 Jan 9 '18 at 21:01
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The only truly correct term is Branta canadensis.

Otherwise, for everyday English, the quote from the suggested edit is completely correct. The colloquial term is "Canada goose". There is a lot of sloppiness with this term in common usage. Most people will understand what you mean if you say "Canadian goose", especially from context, but it's not really right.

It is interesting to note that around here (New England), we have a whole population of Canada geese that are not Canadian geese. Originally before human intervention, the species bred in Canada, then migrated south during winter. Canada geese in the eastern US were decimated by hunting for their goose down. Then in the early 1900s, some geese from the plains were introduced here. They breed here and stay resident all year round without migrating to Canada in the summer. Meanwhile, the original population rebounded after hunting was restricted.

So we have Canada geese that are not Canadian because they spend their whole lives here. We also have Canadian Canada geese that largely fly overhead on their way between their summer breeding grounds in Canada and their winter homes in the mid-Atlantic area.

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Depending on where you are in the world and if your referring to them scientifically or not makes a big difference. But if you are in the us we refer to them as Canadian Geese.

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