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A Canada Goose
Scientific classification
† see also: Swan, Duck

Goose is the general English name for a considerable number of birds, belonging to the family Anatidae. This family also includes the swans, which are mostly larger than geese, and the ducks, which are smaller.

This article deals with the true geese in the subfamily Anserinae. A number of other waterbirds, mainly related to the shelducks, have "goose" as part of their name. For these, see Anatidae.

Geese are medium to large birds, always associated with water. Most species in Europe, Asia and North America are strongly migratory as wild birds, breeding in the far north and wintering much further south.

However, escapes and introductions have led to resident feral populations of several species.

All geese eat an exclusively vegetarian diet, and some can become pests when flocks feed on arable crops.

The following are some goose species.

Genus Anser, Grey Geese

Genus Branta, Black Geese

The Anseriformes and rails are ancestral to neognathous birds, and should follow ratites and tinamous in bird classification systems. See the chart below

For further taxonomic detail, see also Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy.


Goose in its origins is one of the oldest words of the Indo-European languages, the modern names deriving from the proto-Indo-European root, ghans, hence Sanskrit hamsa (feminine hamsii), Latin anser , Greek khén etc.

In the Germanic languages, the root word led to Old English gos with the plural gés, German Gans and Old Norse gas. Other modern derivatives are Russian gus and Old Irish géiss.

In non-technical use, the male goose is called a "gander" (Anglo-Saxon gandra) and the female is the "goose".

See also: wildfowl, waterfowl

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