All about geese: characteristics, species, nutrition, breeding, habits, facts

Let’s get to know this animal more closely, which was already domesticated in Ancient Egypt

The term geese refers to a considerable number of birds, belonging to the order Anseriformes and to the family of the Anatidae . This family also includes swans (larger than geese) and ducks (smaller).

The geese are water birds that live mostly in wetlands and coastal areas around the world. They are migratory and fly in flocks with the characteristic V formation.

They follow a vegetarian diet and are loyal to the same mate throughout their life. They lay fewer eggs than ducks and both the male and the female take care of the nest and the young.

Geese have been domesticated for centuries (already by the Romans). The backyard geese are in fact descended from the wild goose.

Description of the geese

The real geese belong to the Anserini genus which includes about 150 species sharing the following characteristics:

  • waterfowl similar to the duck, but of greater size and weight
  • first three fingers joined by a membrane to be able to swim
  • small head and eyes
  • long and robust beak , with spaced and protruding gills in the upper jaw
  • long neck and stocky body
  • long wings and carried high
  • strong and long legs
  • dense and soft plumage
  • hoarse, squawking voice
  • Average weight 5 or 6 kilos . If fattened, they can reach 10 kilos

Habits of geese

Depending on the species they belong to, geese have different habits and behaviors, however there are elements common to all breeds.

  • poor needs , as adults they do not have major problems with cold or humidity and even with contracting diseases
  • average life of 10 years
  • they are territorial animals that defend their space (especially the male)
  • they are also excellent flyers
  • they forcefully peck at attackers if they feel threatened
  • they are sociable animals : they always live and move in groups
  • they are vegetarians : they eat mainly leaves and sprouts of plants, wheat grains, herbs and aquatic plants

What geese eat

Geese tend to be vegetarian , although sometimes they do not disdain insects and small invertebrates. Domestic geese, on the other hand, have no problem tasting any type of edible food.

Where the geese live

Europe, Asia and North America are the most common habitats of wild geese . Most of the species are migratory : they nest in the north and then winter in the south. However, these are extremely ductile animals that easily adapt to different environments, even if they prefer temperate climates.

Geese live well in humid environments characterized by the presence of a pond or a pond, preferably surrounded by dense vegetation.

Reproduction of geese

Geese are monogamous and faithful animals . They usually always mate with the same mate throughout their life. Cases of rupture are very rare.
Sexual maturity is around the third year of life and the mating period coincides with winter.
The mating takes place in water, the nest is instead built dry, among the bushes, in a quiet and sheltered place.
Both the female and the male take care of the protection of the nest and of the young once born.

Geese, when they lay their eggs

A few days after mating, the female lays her eggs. If the spawning is too fast there is a risk that the eggs will not be fertilized. The female lays from four to six eggs which are hatched, in turn, by both parents, for about a month. For up to three broods per year.

Between March and April the eggs hatch. The chicks remain in the nest for at least 5 days. The small geese take their first flight around 2 or 3 months of life.

Orientation and communication of geese

Geese know their way around very well . Do you think that they manage to return to the nest where they were born even after a year! They migrate in orderly flocks forming the classic V that appears in the sky. This formation constitutes a stratagem to save energy: the birds in front, with their wings, in fact create vortices of air that “suck” those that follow.

The forerunner is consequently the bird that struggles the most. That’s why, during the migration, the geese alternate in this role, a bit like those who pull the group in cycling!

Geese communicate by making over 10 different sounds , each based on a specific situation.

Geese classification

Geese are essentially divided into 3 genera :

  • the Anser or gray geese, a group which also includes the domestic goose and the swan goose
  • the Chen geese or white geese
  • Branta geese or black geese (such as the Canada goose)

Geese species

The Anatidae family is very numerous. There are about 50 different species of geese around the world .

It would be impossible to describe them all in one article. We present some of the most interesting species for both physical characteristics and habits.

Wild geese

They are the largest and most robust geese of the Anser genus : 90 centimeters by 4 kilograms. Native to North Africa and Eurasia, they have gray-brown feathers, with a lighter belly and chest than the wings.

The neck has longitudinal stripes, the tip of the tail is white while the beak and legs are orange. They eat buds, roots, floating plants and grasses.

Swan geese

Originally from East Asia, in summer they live in southern Siberia, while in winter they move to Korea and northern China. They love to live near water bodies, such as lakes, rivers, ponds and swamps.

The swan goose weighs just over 3 kilos, is dark gray behind the wings, while the chest has brownish and white tones on the neck and tail. The legs are orange and the beak is black.
The female lays up to eight eggs.

Lesser white-fronted geese

Migratory bird of the Central Eastern regions of Europe and Central Asia. In the summer it migrates to the Arctic and then spends its winters in the Middle East and South-Eastern Europe. As a habitat it prefers the tundra , areas near lakes and rivers, and coastal areas.

Lesser white-fronted geese are dark gray with white lines, orange legs, white tail, pink beak and a white border on the muzzle that makes them easily recognizable. The female lays about five eggs per season.
It is an endangered species .

Legged geese

Iceland and Greenland are its summer habitat, while Great Britain and the Netherlands welcome them in winter. They love lake areas and estuaries with high pastures. They feed on grains, potatoes, carrots and beets.

The chest is brown, the wings gray with white stripes. They have red legs and a dark head. Its peculiarity is the beak: pink and very short . In July it nests on tundra land and lays six eggs. It is a growing species due to the abundance of food.

Greater white-fronted geese

With 3 kilos in weight by 80 centimeters in height, this goose has brown feathers. The orange legs and beak stand out, as well as the insertion of the beak and the undertail, both white.
This species is found in all arctic regions of North America, Asia and Europe .

Breeding of geese

Originally, geese were only wild, but they have been domesticated since ancient Egypt . They are to be reared in groups in a ratio of 4 to 1 of females and males to favor reproduction. It is a fairly simple animal to raise because it does not require great care and attention .

A pasture of 150 square meters is enough where they can move and a small house of about 4 square meters to shelter. To prevent them from escaping, it is best to surround the area with a metal mesh at least half a meter high.

Domestic geese

Also referred to as backyard geese, they are all those species of geese that have accompanied us and our ancestors in rural life for generations. They come from wild stocks, and have contributed to the subsistence and development of entire villages. Of a mild and calm character, they generally move in groups and adapt to any domestic and rural reality typical of the countryside.

They are omnivorous and also eat human waste. Particularly docile and sedentary they are animals of habit. At night they seek safe shelter. Important breeds of backyard geese are:

  • the Romagna Goose
  • the Swan Goose
  • the Toulouse Goose

Income geese

The main reason these animals are raised is for their meat. Among the main breeds sought after for their lean and white meats we remember:

  • the Normandy Goose
  • the White of Poitou
  • the Pomeranian Goose
  • the Padovana Gray goose
  • the Chinese goose
  • the Gray of Marais

Very famous is the Lomellina goose, an Italian goose, from whose meat the well-known “Salame di Mortara”, Igp certified, is obtained.

Geese and foie gras

Geese are also bred all over the world for their liver, from which foie gras is obtained , much appreciated by gourmets. The liver geese weigh between 7 and 9 kilos and are subjected to a real barbarism called ‘gavage’ , a French term that indicates force feeding .

These geese are in fact literally gorged so that their livers increase in size. Fortunately, many countries have banned this cruel practice. In Europe it still survives in France.

The main breeds from which foie gras is obtained are:

  • the Toulouse Goose
  • the Romagna goose
  • the Gray Goose of the Landes
  • the Alsatian Goose

Feathers and skins of geese

The goose is also bred to profit from the sale of its skins and plumages with which duvets, jackets and pillows are made. The breeds bred for this purpose are:

  • the White Goose of Poitou
  • the goose of Rome
  • the Flemish Goose
  • the Normandy Goose
  • the Pilgrim Goose

Ornamental geese

Compared to domestic geese, ornamental geese are recognized for their more slender and elegant shape and particular plumage. They are raised only to beautify gardens and ponds .
The wild goose, with its pink beak and white tail, is the quintessential type of ornamental goose.

Other popular ornamental breeds are:

  • The Swan Goose, white and gray, has a characteristic black protuberance on its beak. The belly is white with black flecks, while the neck is light brown.
  • the Czech goose, with immaculate white plumage all over the body
  • the Danube Goose, white but with ruffled plumage and dark eyes surrounded by a red membrane
  • the Venetian Spotted Goose
  • the red-necked goose, considered one of the most beautiful geese in the world for the plumage that alternates colors from red, white and black
  • the Egyptian Goose, reddish-brown with green and white stripes on the wings
  • the White Face Goose, black all over the body but with a white face, belly and undertail
  • the Australian Arboreal Goose which has a reddish head and neck and a light gray belly
  • the Canadian goose with black feathers and also dark legs and beak
  • the Hawaiian Goose, at risk of extinction
  • The Barred Goose, also known as the Indian Goose. Typical of India and Tibet, it has two black stripes on the head

Laying geese

These animals are obviously also bred for egg production . Laying geese can produce up to 100-130 eggs per year . The most prolific breeds from this point of view are the Italian ones, in particular the Romagnolo or Italian goose . In fact, considered the laying breed par excellence, in moments of maximum production it lays 110-115 eggs per year. Its eggs weigh between 90 and 140 grams.

Other profitable breeds from this point of view are the Pezzata Veneta which produces on average 100 eggs a year and the Grigia Padovana which produces fewer eggs than the first two, but larger in size.

Among the foreign ones, the most popular are the Czech Goose and the Chinese Goose, with an average of 70-80 eggs per year weighing about 140 grams.

Facts about geese

The geese of Konrad Lorenz

The ethologist Konrad and his study on imprinting made the wild goose famous. The photo of the scholar is very famous, followed by a line of chicks who believe him to be their mother.

What are the Capitol geese

One of the most famous Roman legends has as its protagonists the geese who saved Rome from an enemy attack . The legend, dating back to 390 BC, tells of the attempted siege of the city by the Gauls

It is said that during the siege the geese, the only animals that survived because they were sacred to Juno, began to squawk very loudly to warn the former consul Marco Manlio and alarm the army.

What does it mean happy goose

With this expression it is usual to indicate a silly, superficial woman , but also naive and who laughs at all.

What is the Freiburg Goose

During the Second World War the goose warned the inhabitants of Freiburg of the arrival of enemy planes . A monument has been dedicated to her.

What geese symbolize

Symbol of a solar bird, they are often associated with life , creation and rebirth . They also represent female fertility, motherhood and domestic life, but also the habit of gossiping .

In the culture of Christianity, geese are the emblem of the Immaculate Conception and the Incarnation

Geese – easy drawing

Drawing geese is quite easy. Just follow a few simple steps:

  • draw two ovals for the head and body, and draw a line that will act as the center of its beak
  • draw the shape of the body and neck. Add a light guideline for the tail
  • define guidelines for the legs and highlight the center of the beak
  • sketch legs and beak. Add lines for the wings
  • add the tail, wings and eye. Finish with the beak and legs
  • draw the feathers on the body and define the details of the legs, beak and feet

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