Learn to Speak Goose
Learn the Difference Between Goose Mating Behavior, Greetings, and Aggression
Most people can readily identify the call of a goose. But did you know that geese have so much more to say than just their proverbial honk? Geese are actually clear communicators who speak with both voice and physical gesture. We only have to know what goose behavior and sounds to look for in order to interpret what they’re trying to say. Learn to better understand the goose, to recognize the signs of a guardian who believes there’s a possible threat, and to become aware of an angry goose about to charge.
It’s essential when diagnosing goose communication to assess the context of any given situation. One physical gesture can mean very different things depending on the circumstances in which the goose resides. For example, when the goose spreads his or her wings and holds them open without taking flight, it typically means that the bird is merely stretching. They will not flap their wings nor run but stand or walk about with their wings fully opened from side to side. However, a guardian goose will also display their wingspan in order to make themselves appear larger in size if they suspect confrontation from a potential predator. A relaxed stretching goose will fold their wings against their body after only a few seconds while a threatened goose may flaunt their wings for a minute or more. Additionally, it is standard goose mating behavior for the male, or gander, to display his wingspan to his mate. The male will bathe, arrange his feathers, show his outstretched wings and softly peck at the female goose before mating.
The Alert Goose
Suppose the goose’s wings are folded inward, hugging the body but their neck is fully extended upward and the head is slightly raised, eyes scanning their surroundings. This upright posture is how the goose physically responds when alert. The raising of the neck and head enables them to better see and hear, thus allowing them to assess potential danger. In addition, when a goose fully stretches the neck upward with her head titled at an angle toward the sky, she is simply watching a flying object. Planes, birds, and even some insects catch the attention of the goose. As with chickens, ducks and other backyard birds, geese will observe the object until it passes.
Lowering of the Head and Neck
The lowering of the head and neck is another goose behavior used to convey two very different ideas. Therefore we must look at the way the head is held and any accompanying noises the goose is sounding to understand. If the neck is lowered towards the ground, the head and bill slightly scooped upward and the goose is making a throaty chortling sound, he is merely chatting. A goose will hold conversations this way with both flockmates and their human counterparts. Alternatively, if the neck is lowered but accompanied by a downward bill, hiss or snaking of the neck, the goose is threatening to attack. The bill is readily positioned as if to strike and the goose may also pick up speed by running or flapping its wings.
Quivering of the Neck
The neck may be bent or straightened and one can easily see the neck and feathers shivering. This rapid tremor is a sign of apprehension. The goose may be uncertain about an unfamiliar object, new feed or animal. It may feel threatened and potentially follow this display by snaking the head and neck or hissing.
Projecting the Alarm
Geese have a very strong instinct when it comes to the protection of their young, flock and territory which is why many farmers are interested in keeping geese. If they perceive the threat of danger a goose will alarm the other birds by extending the neck upward, tilting back the head and calling into the air. This loud projection signals other members of the flock to pay attention, seek shelter and may even ward off small predators such as hawks.
A Startled Goose
Geese make excellent watchdogs to guard your flock, but because they are constantly watching for signs of danger they can be easily spooked. If a goose is simply frightened they will scream, quickly sidestep or even run. For example, a barn cat walking around a corner and surprising a goose would likely cause the bird to let out a small yell and flinch. The wings may open and close quickly as if considering flight. Young goslings will pick up on the tense goose behavior of the parent and seek shelter. But suppose the danger is real and there is a true predator approaching. The goose will act according to its fight or flight response; choosing to either stay and fight or flee the scene.
Above all else, one thing is for certain across all geese breeds; if a goose is excited to see their farmer or fellow birds they’e sure to extend a warm welcome. It is standard goose behavior to honk their hello loudly followed by running toward their friends, potentially flapping their wings and hopping. After this warm display the goose will lower their head and neck and begin to gossip, greeting their family with a quick chat.
Geese operate in pecking orders. The goose communicates their position within the hierarchy by gently pecking or nipping at a flockmate’s wings. If another goose, for example, is in their way for feed, a goose will ask the other to move by nipping. This communication is very different from actual biting, bullying or pulling out feathers. Those are aggressive goose behaviors that warrant separation. Simple pecking order discussions should not result in any hurt or damaged members of the flock.
When learning to speak goose, it’s important to acknowledge that goose behavior can sometimes vary from bird to bird based on their personality, quirks, circumstances and environment. But the core communications listed above tend to be consistent from goose to goose and breed to breed. What goose behaviors have you discovered amongst your flock?