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Birds Guide


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A Canada Goose
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Subfamily: Anserinae
Cnemiornis (extinct)
see also: Swan, Duck

Goose (plural geese) is the general English name for a considerable number of birds, belonging to the family Anatidae. This family also includes swans, most of which are larger than geese, and ducks, which are smaller.



This article deals with the true geese in the subfamily Anserinae. A number of other waterbirds, mainly related to the shelducks, have "goose" as part of their name.

True geese are medium to large birds, always (with the exception of the Nēnē) associated to a greater or lesser extent with water. Most species in Europe, Asia and North America are strongly migratory as wild birds, breeding in the far north and wintering much further south. However, escapes and introductions have led to resident feral populations of several species.

Geese have been domesticated for centuries. In the West, farmyard geese are descended from the Greylag, but in Asia the Swan Goose has been farmed for at least as long.

All geese eat an exclusively vegetarian diet, and can become pests when flocks feed on arable crops or inhabit ponds or grassy areas in urban evnironments.

Geese mate for life, though a small number will "divorce" and remate. They tend to lay a smaller number of eggs than ducks, however, both parents protect the nest and young, which usually results in a higher survival rate for the young geese, known as goslings.

Greylag Geese flying.
Greylag Geese flying.

Not all couples are heterosexual, as both females and males will form long-term same-sex couples with greater or lesser frequency depending on species. Of the heterosexual couples, a significant proportion are non-breeding despite having an active sexual life. See Canada Goose

A group on the ground is called a gaggle. When flying, a group of geese is known as a wedge or a skein.

Geese have appeared in feature films such as "Fly Away Home" which starred Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin.

True geese

Canada Goose gosling
Canada Goose gosling

The following are the true goose species.

Genus Anser Brisson 1760, Grey Geese

  • Greylag Goose Anser anser
    White-fronted Goose A. albifrons
    Lesser White-fronted Goose A. erythropus
    Bean Goose A. fabalis
    Pink-footed Goose A. brachyrhynchus
    Bar-headed Goose A. indicus
    Swan Goose, A. cygnoides

Genus Chen Boie 1822 or Anser (depending on authority cited), White Geese

  • Snow Goose Chen caerulescens or Anser caerulescens
    Ross's Goose, C. rossii or A. rossii
    Emperor Goose, C. canagica or A. canagicus

Genus Branta Scopoli 1769, Black Geese

  • Brent Goose Branta bernicla
    Barnacle Goose B. leucopsis
    Canada Goose B. canadensis
    Cackling Goose B. hutchinsii
    Red-breasted Goose B. ruficollis
    Hawaiian Goose or Nēnē, B. sandvicensis
    Nēnē-nui or Woods-walking Goose, B. hylobadistes Conservation status: Prehistoric

Genus Cereopsis

  • Cape Barren Goose, Cereopsis novaehollandiae

Genus Cnemiornis, New Zealand Geese Conservation status: Prehistoric

  • South Island Goose, Cnemiornis calcitrans Conservation status: Prehistoric
    North Island Goose, Cnemiornis gracilis Conservation status: Prehistoric

Other species called "geese"

There are a number of mainly southern hemisphere birds named as geese which are more correctly placed with the shelducks in the Tadorninae. These are:

  • Blue-winged Goose, Cyanochen cyanopterus
    Andean Goose, Chloephaga melanoptera
    Magellan Goose, Chloephaga picta
    Kelp Goose, Chloephaga hybrida
    Ashy-headed Goose, Chloephaga poliocephala
    Ruddy-headed Goose, Chloephaga rubidiceps
    Orinoco Goose, Neochen jubata
    Egyptian Goose, Alopochen aegyptiacus

The Spur-winged Goose, Plectropterus gambensis, is most closely related to the shelducks, but distinct enough to warrant its own subfamily, the Plectropterinae.

The three perching ducks in the genus Nettapus are named as pygmy geese, such as the Cotton Pygmy Goose, Nettapus javanica, but are true ducks.

The unusual Magpie-goose is in a family of its own, the Anseranatidae.


Goose in its origins is one of the oldest words of the Indo-European languages, the modern names deriving from the proto-Indo-European root, ghans, hence Sanskrit hamsa (feminine hamsii), Latin anser, Greek khén etc.

In the Germanic languages, the root word led to Old English gos with the plural gés, German Gans and Old Norse gas. Other modern derivatives are Russian gus and Old Irish géiss; the family name of the cleric Jan Hus is derived from the Czech derivative husa.

In non-technical use, the male goose is called a "gander" (Anglo-Saxon gandra) and the female is the "goose" (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913))

See also

| Up
| Albatross
| American Robin
| Andean Condor
| Blue Jay
| Bluebird
| Caladrius
| Canada Goose
| Canary
| Cardinal
| Cassowary
| Cockatoo
| Condor
| Cormorant
| Crow
| Domesticated turkey
| Double-headed eagle
| Dove
| Duck
| Eagle
| Emu
| Falcon
| Goose
| Gull
| Hawk
| Heron
| Hornbill
| Hummingbird
| Ibis
| Kingfisher
| Kiwi
| Kookaburra
| Macaw
| Martlet
| Osprey
| Ostrich
| Owl
| Partridge
| Peafowl
| Pelican
| Pheasant
| Puffin
| Quail
| Raven
| Rooster
| Secretary Bird
| Snipe
| Spotted Eagle Owl
| Stork
| Swallow
| Swan
| Toucan
| Vulture
| True parrots
| Woodcreeper

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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