A goose is a bird in the family Anatidae, which also includes ducks and swans. Many people classify geese within the genera Anser and Branta as “true geese,” to distinguish them from other birds in the same family, some of whom confusingly have common names which include the term “goose” although they are not, in fact, geese. Geese are abundant throughout the world, with a wide range of very diverse species.
When distinguishing geese from other members of the same family, it helps to note that geese are generally larger than ducks, but smaller than swans. The birds also have more pointed bills, rather than the blunt bills of ducks, with short necks and muscular bodies. Some goose species can get quite large, making them very popular as a food source in some regions of the world, and geese are also known for being extremely territorial, leading some people to use geese as guarding and herd animals.
Most goose species are migratory, seeking out favorable climates with the change of the seasons, and they mate for life, although some geese have been known to divorce their partners. A clutch of goose eggs is typically small, motivating the parents to guard the nest and the resulting goslings ferociously to ensure that they get a chance to live to adulthood. Like other birds in the Anatidae family, geese are very good swimmers and divers, and they feed on an assortment of plants, small insects, and other small creatures.
As a general rule, geese are associated with water, with some species hanging out around freshwater, while others prefer a saltwater environment. The notable exception to this rule is the rare Nēnē or Hawaiian goose, which lives primarily on land. Nēnē geese are considered vulnerable, and the Hawaiian government has taken a number of steps to keep the goose population on the islands healthy.
Some common geese include Cackling, Canada, Grey, Emperor, Snow, and Greylag geese. Geese are also among the oldest of domesticated farm animals, and they have been raised for generations in both Europe and Asia. Many domesticated geese are bred to be especially heavy, making them a better source of food, and as a result, they are also quite strong. A full-grown goose is actually capable of breaking bones with its powerful wings, and geese can take a nasty chunk out of bite victims, despite the fact that they have no teeth.