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Answering All Your Questions: Do Geese Mate For Life?

Do geese mate for life?

I rarely see geese on their own. Even when I see them in flocks, geese seem to move in pairs. They also forage in pairs and of course, nest as paired birds.

With so much time spent together, it seems that geese probably mate for life. But is that true? Are they more like ducks that actually find a new mate every nesting season?

See this article for answers to these and other questions about geese mating for life!

 

Lifelong Bonds

It’s no surprise that geese seem to spend a lot of time with their mates. These big waterfowl species do indeed mate for life! While most ducks find a new mate every year, once a goose finds a mate, they stay with their counterpart for the rest of their lives.

pair of Canada Geese

A pair of Canada Geese.

Familiar species, such as the Canada Goose and Snow Goose, pick a mate after the second or even third year of their lives. Making such an important decision could be why birds in their first year of life don’t even look for a mate.

Geese find their life mate after courtship rituals that involve males making themselves look bigger, outstretching their necks, and closely following a female around. If she picks him, both birds hold their heads high, and loudly call together at close range.

Mated geese pairs continue to carry out this same “triumph” ritual throughout their lives. They do it after they vanquish competitors from their territories, fight off a predator, or in other situations where they work together. This special behavior probably helps to strengthen their pair bond.

Related: What do geese symbolize?

Geese also stay together all year long. Even though they migrate, whether on breeding grounds or far to the south, mated birds stick together and feed with each other.

 

What Happens If Their Mate Dies?

Since geese mate for life, they only “break up” when one of the birds dies. If this happens, the “widow” can mourn for several months!

Such geese have been noted to separate themselves from the other birds in their flock and spend more time alone. They also seem to be less active, can act distressed, and spend time making honking noises on their own.

Although we can’t really know how geese feel, given the extreme importance of their long-term pair bonds, it wouldn’t be surprising if widow geese do indeed feel very sad, distressed, and miss their mate.

A lonely goose

When a goose dies, the remaining bird doesn’t usually look for a new mate right away. Some can search for a mate after some months, but most won’t look for one for at least a year or two.

They find a new mate the same way they did the first time; by looking for a suitable single bird, going through courtship, and forming a long-term bond.

Related: What do geese eat?

 

Fun Facts

  • Geese make great guard birds. Paired geese are very defensive of their territories and will use that instinct to protect a backyard from any intruder. They hiss, bite, and hit with their wings!
  • Goose species can live for 10 to even 25 years. During that time, these long-lived birds only have one mate and tend to be very loyal to them.
  • As baby geese grow, they eventually become more independent of their parents and flock together. Such groups of goslings are known as “gang broods” and can number 100 honking, cackling, and hissing birds!
  • Geese famously migrate in “V” formations. They may do this to take advantage of air flow caused by the lead bird. When the lead bird gets tired, it communicates with the other members of its flock to switch places.
  • Both Canada Geese and Snow Geese have greatly increased in numbers. They have benefited from abundant habitat in the form of golf courses and parklands, and lots of farm fields with abundant food.
  • Like other herbivores, Canada Geese can make a lot of droppings. This can be a problem on golf courses where each Canada Goose creates more than 2 pounds of droppings every single day!
  • Shortly after hatching, goslings start to follow their parents around. If the baby birds see a person, dog, or other animal first, they can imprint on that animal and take it to be their parent!

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are geese loyal to their mates?

Yes, geese are loyal to their mates and stay with them most of the time. However, once in a while, some geese do have temporary “affairs”.

Do geese mourn their mate?

Yes, geese appear to mourn their mate. When a goose dies, its mate becomes inactive, sulks, and can make loud, distressing calls.

Why do geese mate for life?

Geese mate for life so they can better protect and raise their young.

About the Author

Patrick O'Donnell

Patrick O'Donnell has been focused on all things avian since the age of 7. Since then, he has helped with ornithological field work in the USA and Peru, and has guided many birding tours, especially in Costa Rica. He develops birding apps for BirdingFieldGuides and loves to write about birds, especially in his adopted country of Costa Rica.

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