Geese are waterfowl belonging to the tribe Anserini of the family Anatidae. This tribe comprises the genera Anser (the grey geese), Branta (the black geese) and Chen (the white geese). A number of other birds, mostly related to the shelducks, have "goose" as part of their names. More distantly related members of the Anatidae family are swans, most of which are larger than true geese, and ducks, which are smaller.
The word "goose" is a direct descendent of Proto-Indo-European root, *ghans-. In Germanic languages, the root gave Old English gōs with the plural gēs and gandres (becoming Modern English goose, geese, gander, and gosling, respectively), Frisian goes, gies and guoske, New High German Gans, Gänse, and Ganter, and Old Norse gās. This term also gave Lithuanian žąsìs, Irish gé (goose, from Old Irish géiss), Latin anser, Greek χήν/khēn, Dutch gans, Albanian gatë (heron), Sanskrit hamsa and hamsi, Finnish hanhi, Avestan zāō, Polish gęś, Russian гусь, Czech husa, and Persian ghāz.
The term goose applies to the female in particular, while gander applies to the male in particular. Young birds before fledging are called goslings. The collective noun for a group of geese on the ground is a gaggle; when in flight, they are called a skein, a team, or a wedge; when flying close together, they are called a plump.
The three living genera of true geese are: Anser, grey geese, including the greylag goose, and domestic geese; Chen, white geese (often included in Anser); and Branta, black geese, such as the Canada goose.
Two genera of "geese" are only tentatively placed in the Anserinae; they may belong to the shelducks or form a subfamily on their own: Cereopsis, the Cape Barren goose, and Cnemiornis, the prehistoric New Zealand goose. Either these or, more probably, the goose-like Coscoroba swan is the closest living relative of the true geese.
Fossils of true geese are hard to assign to genus; all that can be said is that their fossil record, particularly in North America, is dense and comprehensively documents many different species of true geese that have been around since about 10 million years ago in the Miocene. The aptly named Anser atavus (meaning "great-great-great-grandfather goose") from some 12 million years ago had even more plesiomorphies in common with swans. In addition, some goose-like birds are known from subfossil remains found on the Hawaiian Islands.
Geese are monogamous, living in permanent pairs throughout the year; however, unlike most other permanently monogamous animals, they are territorial only during the short nesting season. Paired geese are more dominant and feed more, two factors that result in more young.
Other birds called "geese"
- Orinoco goose, Neochen jubata
- Egyptian goose, Alopochen aegyptiacus
- The South American sheldgeese, genus Chloephaga
- The prehistoric Madagascar sheldgoose, Centrornis majori
The blue-winged goose, Cyanochen cyanopterus, and the Cape Barren goose, Cereopsis novaehollandiae, have disputed affinities. They belong to separate ancient lineages that may ally either to the Tadorninae, Anserinae, or closer to the dabbling ducks (Anatinae).
The three species of small waterfowl in the genus Nettapus are named "pygmy geese". They seem to represent another ancient lineage, with possible affinities to the Cape Barren goose or the spur-winged goose.
The unusual magpie goose is in a family of its own, the Anseranatidae.
- Angel wing, a disease common in geese
- Domestic goose, which includes cooking and folklore
- Flying geese paradigm
- List of Anseriformes by population
- List of goose breeds
- Partridge, Eric (1983). Origins: a Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English. New York: Greenwich House. pp. 245–246. ISBN 0-517-414252.
- Crystal, David (1998). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. ISBN 0-521-55967-7.
- "AskOxford: G". Collective Terms for Groups of Animals. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 20 October 2008. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
- Lamprecht, Jürg (November 1987). "Female reproductive strategies in bar-headed geese (Anser indicus): Why are geese monogamous?". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (Springer) 21 (5): 297–305. doi:10.1007/BF00299967.
- Carboneras, Carles (1992). "Family Anatidae (Ducks, Geese and Swans)". In del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew; Sargatal, Jordi. Handbook of Birds of the World. Volume 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. pp. 536–629. ISBN 84-87334-10-5.
- Terres, John K.; National Audubon Society (1991) . The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. New York: Wings Books. ISBN 0-517-03288-0.
The white geese are a small group of waterfowl which are united in the genus or subgenus Chen, in the true geese and swan subfamily Anserinae. They breed on subarctic areas of North America and around the Bering Strait, migrating south in winter.
Many authorities place these species in the grey goose genus Anser. Indeed, Chen and Anser are anatomically indistinguishable. However, external morphology, biogeography, and molecular data suggest that the white geese are indeed an evolutionary lineage distinct from the grey geese—from which they split off fairly recently, essentially replacing them in North America. The AOU recognizes this genus as distinct; most other authorities today consider it a subgenus of Anser.
Like grey but unlike the Branta black geese, their feet and legs are colored in reddish hues. The bill is also reddish in these birds as in most grey geese, except in adult males of Ross's goose which have a blue-black grainy cere. The wingtips are black, as in all true geese, whereas the head is always white without any markings or pattern in adult birds of this genus, which distinguishes them from all other true geese except feral domesticated geese. The rest of the plumage is either white all over, or colored in various dark bluish-grey hues; the latter birds, uniquely among true geese, do not have white uppertail and undertail coverts, though the tail itself may be white.
White-phase snow geese of both species can be told apart from feral geese best by the more slender, elegant neck, which is thick-set in domestic geese; these also have a generally heavier body and often lack black wingtips.
The supposed fossil dwarf snow goose Chen pressa is now placed in Anser (Brodkorb, 1964).
- Brodkorb, Pierce (1964): Catalogue of Fossil Birds: Part 2 (Anseriformes through Galliformes). Bulletin of the Florida State Museum 8(3): 195–335. PDF or JPEG fulltext
- Carboneras, Carles (1992): Family Anatidae (Ducks, Geese and Swans). In: del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew & Sargatal, Jordi (editors): Handbook of Birds of the World, Volume 1: Ostrich to Ducks: 536–629. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-10-5
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