Is a goose a duck?

Geese are beautiful migratory birds which are still little known to many people. As ducks do, they live on and near bodies of water, they resemble ducks, and they waddle like ducks. Does this all mean that geese are just another duck breed?

Are they duck geese? Geese are not ducks, but there is understandable uncertainty! True geese are not ducks, but there are many parallels between the two, and in their names there are even some shelducks with ‘goose’.

Geese vs. duck in a picture side by side
Classifications of waterfowl have evolved over time, creating a rash of misnomers and myths about geese.

Geese are an interesting member of the family of waterfowl birds and some of them closely resemble ducks, which often makes it difficult to tell them apart. Technically, geese may not be ducks, but that does not make them any less captivating. In fact, you can better understand their allure once you learn more about geese, and even how to easily differentiate them from ducks.

If there aren’t true GEESE ducks, what are they?
Geese are part of the family of waterfowl birds called Anatidae. The key taxonomic group ranking, the true goose genera, includes the genera Anser, Chen and Branta.

Are they Ducks with Geese?
The undomesticated Canada goose, barnacle goose, greylag goose, white-fronted goose, snow goose, Brent goose, and Hawaiian nene goose are some of the particular geese included in these genera.

Herbivores, creatures that eat more plants and foliage instead of fish or other foods, are true geese like these birds. When it comes to breeding, geese are monogamous species as well. This means they only have one mating partner at a time, even for their entire lifespan, sometimes.

During seasonal changes, geese will also migrate together with their mates and raise their baby goslings alongside each other. (In a new tab, SourceOpens.)

Why do some other birds have ‘goose’ in their name, not real gesee?
It is important to note that there are a few birds that have names that include the ‘goose’ term, but they are no longer considered to be real geese.

This can cause a great deal of uncertainty, actually. The Cape Barren goose, Orinoco goose, Egyptian goose and sheldgeese were formerly known as geese, but their names are now all part of a distinct subfamily of shelducks.

Their colloquial names have not changed, generating some of the confusion between actual geese and those geese that were previously known to be more duck-like birds.

Are domestic GEESES now ducks?
No, domesticated geese, all members of the domesticated Anser genus of true geese, come from the Greylag goose and the Swan goose.

You might be shocked to hear that, traditionally, geese are the poultry species that were first domesticated more than 6,000 years ago. (In a new tab, SourceOpens.)

Domesticated geese, weighing up to 22 pounds in captivity, are often white and occasionally brown. They can grow much larger in size than their wild, undomesticated counterparts, which normally reach a height of only 9 pounds.

Farm-raised geese have long, slender necks, making them very distinct from ducks who, in contrast, appear to have very short, dense necks.

Are they connected to geese and ducks?
Yes, they are related to geese and ducks! They are both members of the Anatidae family of waterfowl birds. Ducks, swans, and geese are included in this family.

Both geese and ducks are thought to have derived from the same subclade bird family around 20.8 million years ago. (In a new tab, SourceOpens.)

This genetic family of birds comprises 146 separate waterfowl species in total. The geese, ducks and swans that make up the family of the Anatidae are more closely related than any other bird or animal to each other.


A goose and a duck have a number of variations, but there are still several parallels. It may seem hard at first to differentiate them from each other, but with a little support, you can see that it is not as difficult as it first seemed.

Length of Neck
The neck is the first predictor of whether a bird is a duck or a goose or not. Aside from the snow goose, which has a slightly shorter neck than other goose breeds, the neck of a goose is generally much longer than other duck necks. Ducks have only 16 or fewer vertebrae that make up their necks, while geese may have up to 23 vertebrae in the neck.

Composition of Size and Body
Its size and body composition are another measure of whether a waterfowl is a duck or a goose. On average, geese are bigger than ducks and appear to have longer bodies and longer legs as well. On average, ducks are smaller than geese and have shorter bodies with legs significantly shorter.

The vocal noises made by each of the birds often vary distinctly from each other. Ducks use quacking noises to interact with each other, while geese interact with other geese using a distinctive honking vocalisation.

On their skins, geese and ducks have very distinct colours. White, grey or black are more likely to be geese, while ducks can come in a variety of colour schemes. Male ducks appear to be more colourful than female ducks as well. There is no distinct difference in colour between male and female geese, just a noticeable difference in size.

Scale of Bill
Ducks and geese, also known as bills, have distinctly different beaks. Ducks tend to have flatter bills and have nostrils sitting high up. Geese have shorter bills than ducks, on the other hand, and their nostrils are located lower on their bills. The bill of a goose also rests higher on their forehead, reaching closely to the top of their heads. The bill of a duck lies lower on its face and normally does not pass the level of the eye.

Lifespan Over
On the lifespan scale, geese tend to be significantly more resilient than ducks. On average, wild geese live longer than wild ducks.

While geese live longer, up to 15-20 years, most ducks have a lifespan of 10-15 years. Geese and ducks raised on farms can live longer than wild waterfowl, but there are other factors that also weigh in.

Scale and Frequency of Egg

When compared to ducks, wild geese normally lay fewer eggs in their nest at a time, usually only anywhere between 2-7 eggs. Depending on the breed, ducks in the wild normally lay anywhere between 5-18 eggs at a time.

A goose egg is slightly bigger, often even twice the size, than the typical duck egg.

Depending on their breed and climate, most domesticated geese can only lay up to 50 eggs per year, while some domesticated ducks can lay up to a whopping 340 annually.

Feet & Feathers
Apart from the Hawaiian nene goose, all ducks and geese have webbed feet. There are also feathers of both waterfowl birds that are designed with special oils that allow them to shed water rather than absorb it.

Preferences for Food
Both geese and ducks consume both land and aquatic plants. Geese are considered herbivores and, except in desperate situations, stick only to plants and foliage. Ducks, on the other hand, are omnivores, which means that plants as well as fish and other invertebrate animals are eaten as needed.

Lifestyle and Breeding
When it comes to breeding, geese and ducks are also monogamous, which means they only have one breeding partner at a time. Every annual breeding season, ducks in the wild will usually have a new partner, while geese frequently stay with the same breeding partner for years at a time.

Are there any GEESE tiny ones?

The cotton pygmy goose is a tiny bird that can be as small as 5.8 ounces, but, sadly, it is no longer considered a real goose.

Currently, the cotton pygmy goose is now known as a perching duck and ranks as one of the world’s smallest waterfowl family members.

Brant geese, a real wild goose, usually weights an average of 3.1 to 3.4 pounds, very small compared to Canadian geese, which can reach 11-13 pounds.

  • Say Simple WAYS Whether A BIRD IS A GOOSE OR A DUCK.
  • Geese have necks longer than those of ducks.
  • Geese are much larger than ducks.
  • Geese have high bills that are set; typically the top of the bill is at eye level.
  • Geese with little or no extra colouring tend to be grey, white and/or black.
  • The eggs of a goose are larger and appear to lie less often than ducks.


Scientifically, actual geese are not ducks, but they are rather similar. They are so close in fact that some previously called geese have been reclassified by scientists into alternate groups. Domesticated, farm-raised geese, primarily due to a consistent diet and lack of flight, appear to grow much larger than their wild counterparts. Wild and domesticated geese differ markedly from ducks, but you should now be much better prepared to recognise the distinctions.

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