Geese are not ducks, but they are very closely related. Both ducks and geese belong to the Antidae family of bird species, which includes geese, ducks, swans, and shelducks.
Confusingly, many species of ducks and geese look very similar, and some species are named duck when they are actually geese, and vice versa. Geese and ducks also share many physical and behavioral similarities and may even choose to flock together, making it difficult to tell them apart sometimes.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the differences and similarities between geese and ducks and explore what makes them unique.
Geese are not ducks, and ducks are not geese. Just like swans, both are part of the same Anatidae family of waterfowl, but they are different species.
The clearest way to separate geese and ducks is by their size and their general shape. Geese tend to be much larger than ducks, with a longer body. They also have longer legs, which sit further forward on the body than ducks do.
Another easy way to tell geese and ducks apart is by their color. Geese will generally be either grey, white, or brown, whereas ducks have a larger range of colors.
Male and female geese also tend to look quite similar to each other, whereas male ducks usually have brightly colored heads that separate them from their female counterparts.
Then, you will also notice that ducks and geese have different ways of vocalizing; the duck has its distinctive ‘quack’, while the goose ‘honks’. Scientists have a more precise method of telling the two apart. If it has 16 or fewer bones in its neck, it is a duck. Otherwise, it may be a goose or a swan.
Read More: 7 Sounds Geese Make and What They Mean
Are Geese Related to Ducks?
Geese and ducks are very closely related. Both birds belong to the Antidae family, along with swans and shelducks. Geese and swans belong to the Anseri subfamily, whereas ducks belong to the Aythyinae and Anatinae subfamilies.
The subfamily Tadorninae is home to Shelducks and Sheldgeese.
Ducks and geese share many similarities. Both have webbed feet and flat bills and travel as part of a flock. Rather adorably, ducklings and goslings both follow the first large moving creature they see soon after they are born.
This biological ability is called imprinting, and is why there are so many viral stories of geese becoming attached to humans and other animals, following them around like they would follow their mother.
How are Geese and Ducks Different?
Though geese and ducks are broadly similar, they are separate species and do have some differences.
Geese are generally larger than ducks. Geese tend to have a longer body, longer legs, and their legs are placed further to the front of their body than ducks.
Geese have longer necks than ducks. In fact, that’s one of the ways ornithologists can tell them apart. For waterfowl, 16 or fewer bones in the neck means that it’s a duck. 17-24 bones means that it is a goose or swan.
Geese and ducks have a few behaviors that set them apart. For starters, geese tend to be more aggressive than ducks. Ducks will still raise the alarm if they spot an intruder but are more likely to flee and less likely to attack, possibly due to their smaller size.
Geese mate for life, whereas ducks are monogamous only for the duration of the breeding season.
Geese and ducks also raise their young differently. Both male and female geese are involved in raising their young, whereas the responsibility for raising the chicks lies solely with the mother in ducks.
Geese are mostly herbivores. They don’t eat meat and survive mostly on plant life. (Although they can occasionally eat insects and very small fish)
Despite the fact that they are much smaller than geese, ducks areare omnivores, meaning they will happily eat worms, fish, insects, snails, and plants.
Can Geese and Ducks Breed?
Ducks and geese can’t crossbreed. Though they are very closely related, they are by definition different species, which means it’s not possible to create a duck-goose hybrid.
There have been some theories in the past that duck/goose hybrids were possible. Two notable examples of this theory are the Egyptian Goose, which looks remarkably like a duck, and the Muscovy Duck, which looks remarkably like a goose.
Scientists now know both the Egyptian Goose and the Muscovy Duck belong to the Tadorninae subfamily, which are neither ducks nor geese, but shelducks.
How To Tell Geese and Ducks Apart
To tell ducks and geese apart, look out for some common physical differences, as well as at their behavior.
|Size||Larger than Ducks||Smaller than Geese|
|Call||‘Honk’ sound||‘Quack’ sound|
|Color||Mostly white, black, or brown||Multitude of colors|
|Sexes||Male and female usually look similar||Male usually has more colorful feathers than female|
|Necks||Long necks like swans||Short necks|
|Mating||Mate for life, raise chicks as a pair||Do not mate for life, female raises chicks|
Read More: Geese Species Colors List
To sum up, ducks and geese are different species, although they are very closely related.
Ducks and geese share many physical and behavioral characteristics, such as their long-distance migration, large bills, and webbed feet, however, they also have many differentiating features, such as their differing breeding habits, different diets, and different calls or vocalizations.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.