Goose (Anserinae)

   The goose is any bird belonging to the subfamily Anserinae (true geese) of the family Anatidae. Technically, the term goose is reserved for the female, the male being known as the gander, and the newly hatched young as goslings. Also included in the Anatidae are swans, ducks, and mergansers.
   Geese and other members of the Anatidae are swimming birds of moderate size with short legs, fully-webbed front toes, and a broad, flat bill with laminated edges. The young are covered with down and are precocious, being able to swim or run about within a few hours after they are hatched. Geese differ from their close relatives, the swans, in having a shorter neck and the front of the face feathered. They differ from most of the ducks in having the front of the lower part of the legs covered by small hexagonal scales instead of larger, narrower ones, and the bill relatively shorter and more tapering.
   The plumage of geese is compact and close, with relatively few bare spaces. Both sexes have the same coloration, but the male can be distinguished by its larger size. After the breeding season the annual molt occurs, and unlike most other birds, geese and their relatives shed all the feathers of the wing at once, with the result that they cannot fly for a period of at least two months. During this time they are extremely vulnerable to predation. The plumage of the immature bird does not resemble that of the adult until it has reached the age of a year or a year and a half. Geese, like swans, pair for life, and both birds are noted for their longevity. Nests are placed on the ground, and the number of eggs is usually large, ranging from four or five to seven. Young birds may remain in the company of their parents for nearly a year after they are hatched. Geese are sociable in habit and feed in flocks. They are vegetarians, eating both aquatic and terrestrial plants. As upland feeders they may graze far from water in fields where grass and other green herbage is plentiful. If abundant in number, geese may do considerable damage to grain fields.
   The 30 or more species of true geese are cosmopolitan in distribution but are most abundant in the Northern Hemisphere, with 11 species known to occur in North America. In many cases nesting occurs within the Arctic circle. During winter the birds range southward over wide areas, returning to their breeding grounds with remarkable regularity each spring.

 Wild Geese. The best known and most widely distributed of any of the North American wild fowl is the Canada goose, Branta canadensis. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Gulf of Mexico nearly to the Arctic coast it can be found at some time of the year. It breeds from northern United States as far as the north central region of Canada and winters throughout most of the United States as far south as Mexico. In spring it is one of the earliest birds to migrate, those wintering farthest south starting about a month earlier than those wintering at the frost line. During migration one frequently sees wedge-shaped groups of these long-necked birds passing high over-head, and the clamor of their voices is well known. The adult Canada goose is generally brown in color, with light underparts, a diagnostic black neck and head, and a characteristic white patch that runs from under the chin to the side of the head behind the eye. It varies in size from three to three and one-half feet in length.
   There are six other species of wild geese commonly found in North America: (1) the American brant, Branta bernicla, found in coastal areas and distinguished from the Canada goose by its black breast and white patch on the neck; (2) the black brant, B. nigricans, the western form of the American brant; (3) the white-fronted goose, Anser albifrons, abundant in the Mississippi Valley and on the Pacific coast; (4) the snow goose, Chen hiperborea, notable for its white plumage; the blue goose, C. caerulescens, restricted in winter to the coast of Louisiana and during the breeding season to Baffin Island and Southhampton Island; and the Ross snow goose, C. rossi, resembling the snow goose but much smaller. Other kinds of wild geese
known to occur regularly in North America are varieties or subspecies of these species.
   True geese that occur in other parts of the world are the graylag goose, Anser anser, the common species of western Europe from which the domestic breeds have been developed; the barnacle goose, B. leucopsis, of western Europe, so called because of the curious belief, popular during the 11th to the 16th centuries, that the geese developed from barnacles; the ashy-headed goose, Chloephaga poliocephala, of southern South America, a close relative of the brant; and the maned goose, Chenonetta jubata, of Australia, named for the long black plumes on the back of its neck. Geese that do not belong to the subfamily Anserinae are considered as aberrant, but are nevertheless properly called geese.

domestic goose
Domestic Geese. The common goose is highly valued for its flesh, eggs, and soft feathers. Although it has been under domestication for a long time it shows remarkably little variation from its ancestors. It has increased in size and fecundity, but the plumage is the same except for the loss of browner and darker tints and the occurrence of white markings or entirely white plumage. The two most common breeds of domestic geese are the Embden and Toulouse. The white Embden is less prolific but is preferred for the market. The gray Toulouse is prolific but its flesh is too coarse for table use. The Chinese goose is another variety of domestic goose that has been bred in Europe and America. Both brown and white Chinese geese are prolific and their flesh is of excellent quality. African geese are noted for their early maturity, being marketable in 10 weeks. Some wild geese, notably the Canada, have been domesticated and are highly prized, but present laws forbid rearing and marketing wild migratory fowl.