Fun Facts About Goose For Kids
Do you know why geese fly in a V-formation? Do geese have teeth on their tongues? Here are a few amazing fun facts about geese that you can share with your kids.
By Dr Shyam Kumar
Goosey Goosey Gander where shall I wander,
Upstairs, downstairs and in my lady's chamber
There I met an old man who wouldn't say his prayers,
I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs.
— A nursery rhyme for kids
The goose is often a popular character in stories and movies. However, your children may wonder what the difference between a duck and a goose is.
Here is an interesting article on the different types of geese, where they live, what they eat and other fun facts which you can share with your kids.
Different types of geese
Geese are medium to large-sized waterfowls of the bird family Anatidae. The genera Anser (grey geese) and the genera Branta (black geese) come under this family.
1. Canada goose (Branta canadensis)
- The Canada goose is a large-sized goose identified by its trademark white chinstrap with a black neck and head. It is light-breasted and has a brownish back.
- There are about 11 subspecies of Canada goose.
- Distribution: The Canada geese are native to North America and inhabit the arctic and temperate regions.
- Canada geese migrate northwards and southwards every year depending on the season.
- Habitat: During summer, the Canada geese can be commonly seen swimming in open water or resting along the shore. They can also be seen grazing on lawns, golf courses, parks or farm fields.
- Nesting: The mother goose usually finds an elevated spot to build her nest. The nest is made with dry grasses, lichen, or other vegetation and is lined with feathers.
- The gander guards the nest while the female sits on the eggs.
- The mother goose lays a clutch of two to eight eggs and incubates them for about 25 to 28 days after which the eggs hatch.
- In one or two days, the yellow-coloured goslings can move out of the nest and even swim and feed by themselves.
- Food/eating habits: Canada geese are mainly herbivorous but also feed on insects and larvae.
- Foods include grasses, berries, seeds, sedges, eelgrass, blueberries, and agricultural grains such as wheat, rice and corn. In the water, it feeds on algae.
2. Emperor goose (Anser canagicus)
- The emperor goose is a small blue-gray and black-coloured bird which is also known as the ‘beach goose’ or the ‘painted goose’. The head and the back of the neck are white with a light shade of amber yellow. The legs are orange in colour.
- Distribution: The emperor geese can only be found around Alaska or a small part of northeast Russia.
- During the winter, they migrate slightly southwest to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska or into Canada.
- Habitat: In the summer, the emperor geese can be found near freshwater pools, coastal lagoons, or rivers. In the winter, they prefer mudflats or rocky beaches devoid of ice where they can look for food.
- Nesting: The emperor goose builds its nest in vegetation along riverbanks, shorelines, or elevated mounds or hillocks near marshes. The nest is basically a hole in the ground which is filled up with leaves and down feathers plucked from its own body.
- The mother goose lays about two to eight creamy white eggs and incubates them for about 24 days.
- The hatchlings can leave the nest as early as two to six hours and are able to fly after 50 to 60 days.
- Food/eating habits: Unlike other species of geese, emperor geese mainly feed on marine invertebrates such as blue mussel, Baltic clam, and barnacles. At other times, they eat plant matter.
- Plant foods include shoots, roots, berries, marsh plants, seagrass, and marine algae such as sea lettuce.
3. Snow goose (Anser caerulescens)
- There are two subspecies of snow goose — the lesser snow goose (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) and the greater snow goose (Chen caerulescens atlantica).
- There are also two colour variants of this species. The white morph snow goose has white plumage with black wingtips. The blue morph bird has a sooty gray plumage with a white head and neck.
- Distribution: The snow geese are a North American species of geese that inhabit regions in Greenland, Canada and Alaska during the summer and migrate down to North America, flying as far as Mexico or Texas.
- Habitat: The snow geese are found near agricultural fields, freshwater lakes, brackish marshes, grasslands and near shallow wetlands.
- Nesting: In the end of May or the beginning of June, the female goose starts looking for a high ground protected by rocks and shrubs to build its nest.
- The nest is constructed in a shallow depression with leaves, seaweed and twigs and lined with down feathers.
- The female lays about two to six eggs which she incubates for 25 days after which the eggs hatch.
- The baby geese are able to leave the nest within hours of hatching. However, the goslings face threat from predators such as eagles, seabirds, Arctic foxes and wolverines.
- The male goslings grow faster than the females.
- Food/eating habits: Snow geese are vegetarians.
- They feed on seeds, grains, leaves, roots of wild grasses, sedges, shrubs, willows and rushes.
4. Brant goose (Branta bernicla)
- The brant goose is a small-sized goose with a small head, short neck and bill, large wings and a very short tail. The tail is black and the undertail area is white in colour. The black neck has striations along the middle called a necklace.
- There are three subspecies of brant goose. The Pacific North American subspecies is known as the Pacific or black brant. The other two subspecies are the Atlantic brant or light-bellied brent goose and the dark-bellied brant.
- Distribution: The brant geese nest in the high Arctic tundra in North America, Russia and eastern Asia.
- Habitat: They are abundant along the ocean shores and can be found near deltas, lakes, wetlands, estuaries, lagoons and coastal tundra.
- Nesting: The brant goose builds its nest in small islands away from the shore to avoid predators. The nest is a bowl-shaped depression lined with down feathers.
- The female goose lays two to five eggs which hatch in about 24 days.
- Food/eating habits: Brant geese primarily feed on eelgrass, sea lettuce and cultivated grass.
- The young Brant geese feed on various plants, marine invertebrates and larvae, and later move on to a completely plant-based diet.
5. Barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis)
- The barnacle goose is a medium-sized bird with a cream-white face and a black crown, neck and chest. The belly is white, and the back and wings are silver-grey and shiny in appearance.
- They are migratory birds that travel back and forth between their breeding and wintering grounds in the spring and fall.
- Distribution: Barnacle geese can be frequently sighted in the European North Atlantic islands and northwest coasts of arctic Russia.
- Habitat: The barnacle geese species can be seen occupying grasslands, salty marshes, coastal dunes and cultivated fields.
- Nesting: The barnacle goose builds its nest on cliff edges or rocky hillsides to stay out of reach of predators.
- The female barnacle goose lays about four to five eggs.
- The goslings hatch out of the eggs after a 25-day incubation by the mother goose while the gander stands guard near the nest.
- The juvenile geese start developing feathers after six weeks.
- Arctic foxes and polar bears are the main threats to the young ones.
- Food/eating habits: Barnacle geese are primarily vegetarian, but during the winter when food is scarce, they feed on shellfish, molluscs and insects.
- Common foods include aquatic vegetation, agricultural crops, grass, sedge, roots, moss and herbs.
Interesting and fun geese facts for kids
The male goose is called ‘gander’ and the female goose is referred to as ‘mother goose’.
A baby goose is called ‘gosling’.
Geese make a loud honking noise to communicate and are also referred to as ‘honkers’.
Geese fly together in a V-formation as it helps to conserve energy by reducing wind resistance. It also makes it easier for the geese to keep track of one another.
Geese can travel more than 1,000km in a day.
Geese can fly as fast as 65kmph.
Geese were domesticated by the Egyptians about 4,000 years ago based on archaeological evidence.
The animation movies series ‘Kung Fu Panda’ features a Chinese goose named Mr. Ping as the father of ‘Po’, the adorable giant panda.
‘Gus Goose’ is a cousin of Disney’s famous cartoon character Donald Duck.
Duck, Duck, Goose is a popular chasing game played by kids of all ages.
Goose feathers are used in badminton shuttle cocks.
Here is a list of various other species of geese:
Hawaiian goose, bar-headed goose, red-breasted goose, grey goose, Arctic goose, blue goose, bean goose, taiga bean goose, tundra bean goose, white-fronted goose, cackling goose, pink-footed goose, swan goose or Chinese goose, Andean goose, ashy-headed goose, spur-winged goose, Magellan goose, Kelp goose, blue-winged goose, Cape Barren goose, Magpie goose, Orinoco goose, Egyptian goose, ruddy-headed goose, Anser goose (subspecies: Greylag goose and Ross’s goose)
Physical features and adaptations
- Beak: The goose has a short narrow beak in comparison to a duck. This gives it a more powerful bite to rip off stems or to prune tough vegetation.
- Teeth: The goose’s bill appears to be serrated around the edges which appear like miniature teeth.
- In fact, geese do not have true teeth, but a hard, spiky cartilage known as tomium which grows from the beak itself. This rock hard tomium is capable of ripping through both vegetation and marine invertebrates.
- Tongue: The goose’s tongue also has saw-like serrations on it which are made up of tomium giving the appearance of teeth growing on the edges of the tongue. This adaptation helps the goose to hold on to a tuft of grass or a stem with its beak and tongue and sever it by shaking its head.
- These serrations also help the goose to hold on to small prey like rodents or insects and prevent them from escaping.
- Feet: Geese have webbed feet which helps them to swim in water while looking for vegetation to feed on.
- On land, geese can swing their legs forward and are able to walk better than ducks or swans. They can be often seen walking on the grass near lakes, ponds or parks.
- Wings and plumage: Geese have powerful and large wings which help them to fly great distances during migration.
- Their fluffy down feathers trap warm air and serve as insulation from the cold.
- Oil glands near the base of the tail help the geese to waterproof their feathers. They use their bill to spread the oil on the feathers to keep them soft and pliable.
Behaviour and communication
- Geese are very territorial and behave aggressively towards anyone approaching them or their nests.
- They flap their wings aggressively and try to chase people or predators away from them by honking and hissing. Before making an attack, they stretch or crane their necks as a warning.
- Their bite is not very dangerous but can leave you with a bruising, swelling or slight bleeding.
- Geese prefer to build their nests on the ground near lakes or rivers. The nest is usually made up of grass, sticks, mud and feathers.
- For food, they walk about grazing on grass and vegetation on the land. In the water, they splash around and look for food by dipping their head into the water.
- During migration, the geese fly in a V-shaped formation as this requires less energy and they can fly longer distances. The largest and strongest bird usually leads the flock.
10 to 15 years in the wild and 20 to 25 years in captivity
Fun terminology relating to goose
- Goose-step — a special marching style in which soldiers swing one leg at a time back and forth without bending the knee
- Goose egg — a term to represent a zero score in a game
- Goose egg (in medical terms) — a lump or a swelling (hematoma) especially on the head.
- Goose foot (pes anserinus) — a medical term for conjoined tendons of three muscles which are attached on the shinbone or tibia in humans
- Gooseflesh, goose pimples, goosebumps — terms that refer to raised spots on the skin caused due to fright, excitement or cold
- Gooseneck — denotes an object that is curved and resembles the neck of a goose
Books about geese
- ‘The Golden Goose’ by L Leslie Brooke
- ‘Borka: The Adventures of a Goose with No Feathers’ by John Burningham
- ‘Wild goose, brother goose’ by Mel Ellis
- ‘Mother Goose's Little Treasures’ by Iona Opie
- ‘Goose and Duck’ by Jean Craighead George
- ‘Goose on the Loose’ by Phil Roxbee-Cox
- ‘Father Goose: His Book’ by L. Frank Baum
Movies about geese
- Duck Duck Goose
- Kung Fu Panda
- The Magic Swan Geese
- The Snow Goose
- Fly Away Home
About the author:
Written by Dr Shyam Kumar on 20 March 2020
The author holds a degree in Homoeopathy with an MBA in Hospital Management and has worked across multiple disciplines including healthcare and technology. As a nature lover, he attended the world's first underwater CEO's conference to combat marine pollution.
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