Monday 20 May 2024


What's good for the goose is good for the gander. A goose is a bird of any of several waterfowl species in the family Anatidae. 

They can fly 40 mph and you'll notice that in the sky they choose the highly efficient V form as it gives them a 71% increased flight range. Smart those geese. 

A male goose is called a gander and a group of geese are charmingly called a gaggle. We use geese for the plural of male, female or a mix of both. The females are referred to as goose, as in Mother Goose from your childhood stories.

These social birds are very loyal and will follow you around like puppies if you happen to raise one from a wee gosling. And no matter which of the many geese you see as wee goslings, they are all charmingly fluffy and cute.

Geese fossils have been found ranging from 10 to 12 million years ago, so a relatively recent addition to our species list. We have found proto-geese fossils in Gargano, one of the most scenic but overlooked parts of the southern Italian region of Puglia in central Italy. This massive relative of our modern geese stood one and a half metres tall and was likely flightless, unlike modern geese.

The family Anatidae comprises the genera Anser — the grey geese and white geese — and Branta —the black geese. Some other birds, mostly related to the shelducks, have goose as part of their names which can muddle things a bit. More distantly related members of the family Anatidae are swans, most of which are larger than true geese, and ducks, which are significantly smaller.

The word goose is a direct descendant of the Proto-Indo-European root, ghans. In the Germanic languages, the root gave Old English gōs with the plural gēs and gandres — becoming our Modern English goose, geese, gander, and gosling, respectively. The Frisian's use goes, gies and guoske. In New High German, Gans, Gänse, and Ganter, and Old Norse gās.

In the Kwak̓wala language of the or Kwakwaka'wakw, speakers of Kwak'wala, of the Pacific Northwest, we use na̱x̱aḵ as the word for goose. 

Around the world, we refer to these birds as: Lithuanian: žąsìs, Irish: gé (goose, from Old Irish géiss), Latin: anser, Spanish: ganso, Ancient Greek: χήν (khēn), Dutch: gans, Albanian: gatë (heron), Sanskrit haṃsa and haṃsī ("gander" and "goose", also the words for male and female swans), Finnish: hanhi, Avestan zāō, Polish: gęś, Romanian: gâscă / gânsac, Ukrainian: гуска / гусак (huska / husak), Russian: гусыня / гусь (gusyna / gus), Czech: husa, and Persian: غاز‎ (ghāz). 

By any name, geese are majestic birds. They are long lived at around 20 years for some species and spend their days eating seeds, nuts, plants and berries. Once fattened up, they have been on our menu for a very long time. They grace the wilderness around the globe and are fond of our parks, golf courses and are surprisingly comfortable in major cities. And while they are social and friendly, a threatened goose will chase you and take wee nips of your bottom if they take issue with your presence. You go, goose!