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The Truth Revealed: How Long Do Geese Live?

How long do geese live?

Geese are big, bold birds that use the same migration and wintering grounds year after year. When I see geese migrating overhead, I can’t help but wonder if I’m seeing the same birds for the past ten or even twenty years!

It’s impossible to know if those formations of Canada Geese flying and honking overhead are the same ones as the year before. However, since geese do live a long time, they certainly could be!

How long do these big birds live? Can they live as long as people? See answers to these and other questions about geese in this article!

 

How Long Do Geese Generally Live?

Geese are long-lived birds. In general, they live much longer than smaller birds and most other species too!

While most small birds are believed to live ten years at most, the oldest wild Canada Goose on record was at least 33 years old. In captivity, one goose may have lived for more than 40 years. With good care, perhaps they can live for even longer.

On average, Canada Geese in the wild probably live for 20 or so years. In common with many other bird species, most Canada Geese die in their first year of life.

Goslings are easy to catch and hunted by everything from falcons to foxes, weasels, gulls, and other predators.

Canada Goose 

In some places, only 50% of young Canada Geese make it past they first year! However, on golf courses and other urban areas with few predators, more than 70% of young geese can survive to adulthood.

Once they become adults, as long as they can avoid eagles and other predators, Canada Geese and other species can live for many years.

Related: Do geese mate for life?

The related Nënë or Hawaiian Goose can live for a similar number of years, and the Snow Goose probably has a slightly lower lifespan (the oldest one known was 27 years old).

 

Can You Tell If A Goose Is Getting Older?

Birds don’t age the same way people do. That can make it very difficult to tell if they are getting older, geese included! However, there are some things to look for.

However, before even looking for signs of old age, we should see if the goose is actually a juvenile.

Young Canada Geese and juveniles of other geese species can look very similar to adults, but their plumage usually looks “blurrier,” and the bird might also be a bit smaller. They don’t show clear and contrasting lines on their feathers, and their beaks might not be as colorful or shiny.

Telling the age of geese is virtually impossible, unless they are juveniles

As for adult geese, watch for birds that don’t walk as well and have a different posture. When I see a goose lagging behind the other birds and walking with a more hunched-over posture, I’m pretty sure I have found an old bird.

Those older birds might also have more worn-looking plumage. Once a goose reaches a certain age, it might not molt as often as younger birds. This leaves it with a lot of worn and old-looking feathers.

If a goose-looking like that also has trouble getting around, you know you have a pretty old bird on your hands!

Related: How to get rid of geese (in your garden)

 

Fun Facts About Geese And Their Lifespan

  • The Canada Goose lives longer than most geese species. The oldest one known was a 33-year-old bird shot by a hunter. In captivity, they might live even longer.
  • The Barnacle Goose, Snow Goose, and Graylag Goose can all live for more than 25 years in the wild. However, most are believed to have an average lifespan of 10 or so years.
  • The Emperor Goose of Alaska might not live as long as other geese species. The oldest known individual of this Arctic species was 13 years old. They might have an average lifespan of just 6 years.
  • The flocking habits of geese can make them susceptible to disease. In one case, cholera killed more than 1,000 Snow Geese in just one day!
  • Geese raised for food usually only live two to five years. However, this is because such birds aren’t allowed to live past a certain age.
  • In the wild, geese can survive for more than 20 years because they flock together for protection, can be very aggressive in defending themselves, and adult birds don’t have as huge number of predators.
  • Geese have been farmed for their meat and eggs for more than 3,000 years! The ancient Egyptians are known to have raised geese and they may have also been farmed by other, older cultures.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the oldest living geese?

The oldest living goose is a captive Canada Goose that lived to be at least 43 years old.

How long do geese live as pets?

As pets, geese can live as long as 30 years. However, some people have claimed that their geese can live much longer.

 

Read next: What do geese eat?

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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