If you see a lone goose in the wild, unfortunately, it’s usually not a good sign. Finding a goose on their own may mean they have lost their mate, have been separated from their flock, or may have an injury that is preventing them from joining the flock.
In this article, we’ll dive into the complex social structure of geese and their flocks, and look at some of the reasons why a goose might be by themselves.
Reasons Why A Goose Might Be Alone
Geese are social creatures, so it’s unusual to find them by themselves.
Let’s take a look at some situations when a goose might be by themselves, and what it might mean:
1. The Goose Has Lost Its Mate
Geese mate for life, and stay with their families until they pair up at around year 2, so it’s highly unusual to see a lone goose out on their own.
One of the most common reasons to see a lone goose is that a paired goose has lost their mate. When one of the pair dies, the other goose will often stay at the spot, even if it means separating from the rest of the flock.
Geese are emotionally intelligent birds and sometimes spend the rest of their lives mourning, refusing to mate again.
One touching example of the emotional intelligence of geese went viral in 2016, when a male goose appeared to “kiss goodbye” his mate as she was being carried away to slaughter.
The image went viral in China and was shared over 20,000 times.
In another popular story, a goose called Juliet made front-page news in Atlanta after overwintering in a local park with her flock.
Her mate was tragically killed by a car, and Juliet couldn’t accept it. She spent three months grieving, refusing to leave the exact spot where she last saw her mate.
Local citizens watched with equal parts disbelief and heartbreak as Juliet paced up and down the sidewalk for months, long after her flock migrated.
It seemed like the goose was mourning and could not accept that her mate was gone.
Some people have suggested that this endearing yet tragic behavior was because Juliet didn’t understand that her mate was never returning.
In her book ‘The Secret Life Of Dogs’, author Elizabeth Thomas argues that when a pet dies, other pets should be allowed to see the body to help them understand. Animals have some understanding of the finality of death.
Since Juliet’s mate was hit by a car, the city cleared up the body quickly, before Juliet had a chance to fully understand the situation.
Read More: Do Geese Mate for Life?
2: They Are Separated From Their Flock
Geese can become separated from their flock through illness, exhaustion, or happenstance.
Once a goose is separated, it becomes much harder for them to find their way home, especially during migration where a single flock can travel hundreds of miles in a day.
Luckily, when geese find themselves separated from their flocks, they can usually join in with another flock and get along just fine. Nearby flocks tend to share the same northern breeding grounds and migration patterns, so they can join in any V formation and get to where they need to be.
If you’ve ever watched geese migrate, you might have seen this yourself. Once the weather changes, triggering migration in an area, every flock tends to migrate together. Geese formations rarely come by themselves but are followed by several other formations, all going to the same place.
3: The Goose is Ill or Injured
If the goose is injured, they may be unable to move with their flock as they fly to new feeding spots or migrate.
A common illness in young geese is called Angel Wing, which is a deformity caused by malnutrition that prevents geese from flying.
Geese who are stricken with Angel Wing or other illnesses become distressed as their flock leaves to migrate and they can’t go with them. Sadly this is becoming a common problem in the US and UK where Geese spend the winter months. Tourists feed the geese bread, which can indirectly cause malnutrition and illness.
Read More: Why You Shouldn’t Feed Geese Bread
What Should You Do If You Find A Lone Goose?
If you find a goose on their own, in most cases it’s best to leave them alone, but use your best judgment, since they might be distressed and need help. Here’s what to do if you find a goose by themselves.
If the goose is injured, call animal control or a local animal shelter to come and rescue them. Don’t try to rescue the goose yourself, unless they are in danger.
You may find geese alone or in pairs when they are looking for a nesting spot. You’re more likely to find this in northern countries like Canada, Iceland, Norway, and Russia where geese breed in the summer, but more and more geese are remaining south year-round now.
Read More: When do Goose Eggs Hatch?
If a goose looks like it’s about to make a nest somewhere that’s not safe, you might consider trying to move them to somewhere more suitable. Geese have been known to nest in the middle of parking lots and at the side of roads.
If you find a lone gosling, keep an eye on it. Geese have strong family units so it’s unusual for a gosling to become separated from its mother. If the mother doesn’t arrive after 20-30 minutes, call an animal shelter to rescue them.
Geese are super social and are rarely found alone of their own volition. Instead, when you find a goose by themselves it usually means they have lost their mate, or have become separated from their flock due to illness or injury.
In most cases, geese will be able to find their way back to their nesting or feeding grounds by themselves, especially if there are other flocks of geese nearby. So as long as a goose isn’t injured or in a dangerous place, it’s best to leave them alone.
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.