How Long do Geese Live?
If you have been near a lake or pond, you might have noticed some birds floating on the water. These are geese, often confused for their close cousins, ducks and distant relatives, swans. Geese belong to the Anatidae family comprising black, white, and gray birds.
They are the largest waterfowl but usually spend their time on land. When raising geese, the main question you will have is how long you can expect to enjoy their benefits. Here are answers to this question along with tips for maximizing your bird’s lifespan.
What Is The Average Lifespan Of Domestic Geese?
When cared for properly, a domestic goose can live for 20-30 years. The world record for the oldest goose that lived in captivity is 49 years and 8 months. He was named George by its owner, Florence Hull of Lancashire in the UK and died on 16 December 1976.
If you want your goose to live for a long time, pay attention to its feeding, give it enough drinking water and ensure the bird has a comfortable and clean shelter.
Another aspect that will determine your goose’s lifespan is its species. Domestication of geese has been confirmed archeologically to have started as early as 4000 years ago in ancient Egypt. There is also evidence of the domestication of geese in Mesopotamia, ancient Greece, Rome and Europe in the medieval era. Based on its country of origin, a domestic goose can be derived from:
- Swan geese from Eastern Asia.
- Greylag geese from northern Africa, western Asia and Europe.
- Hybrid geese from North America and Australia.
Below is a table summarizing the lifespan of different geese species.
|Goose Breed||Lifespan in Captivity (Years)|
|American Buff goose||15-20|
|Swan or white goose||10-20|
How Long Do Wild Geese Live?
Wild and domestic geese have different lifespans, even when they belong to the same species. Though stories abound of geese living for thirty years in the wild, most of them will only live for about twelve years.
The primary reason for the lifespan discrepancy between wild and domesticated geese is their living conditions. When living conditions in the wild are right, a goose can live a healthy and long life like a domesticated one.
Moreover, wild geese, like most animals, are vulnerable when very old or young. Approximately 20-30% of wild geese die before reaching adulthood. This is because of predation and parasitic, viral, or bacterial infections like avian flu. Some geese also starve to death, more so during harsh winters. As adults, wild geese have a year-on-year survival rate of about 70%.
Factors That Affect the Lifespan of Geese
Before delving into the various aspects that affect the lifespan of geese, you should understand the birds’ lifecycles. A goose’s lifecycle comprises five distinct stages, including:
- Egg laying: Geese will lay eggs in the spring, around mid-February to mid-May. They often produce an egg every one or two days until they have a clutch of 5-9 eggs. Though geese can produce a maximum of 25 eggs annually, it is hard for them to sit on more than ten eggs at once.
- Gestation: After laying eggs, chicks will start forming inside the egg. The gestation period of a goose is 28-30 days. After this, the eggs begin cracking for the chicks to hatch.
- Hatchlings: Hatchlings are born with soft downs. They are usually yellow and fluffy and will walk, feed, drink and feed on their own. Some species, like Canadian geese, even leave their nests to start swimming a few hours after hatching.
- Goslings: Tiny newborn geese are called goslings. They still have soft, fluffy down feathers but cannot fly. As goslings, geese do not step too far away from their breeding locations. Adult geese are also extremely protective of goslings and will become aggressive and violent when they feel their young ones are threatened.
- Adult goose: Goslings are considered adults when the down feathers they are born with have been molted, and they have adult feathers. They can learn how to fly with their adult feathers. The geese reach sexual maturity at 1-2 years.
With an understanding of different points of the life cycle, here are the factors affecting a goose’s lifespan at different stages.
– Goose Breed
A goose’s species determines its behaviors, living conditions, and eating habits. Owing to their large body sizes, geese will generally live longer than small bird breeds because their metabolism is slower than the latter. The slow metabolism means their bodies will not age so fast.
There exists no significant lifespan difference between ganders and geese of different species. Unlike in other species where males die faster because of their more demanding roles, geese share their roles equally.
– Diet and Feeding
The bulk of a goose’s diet comprises vegetation and plants. As wild animals, the birds will eat what is seasonally available. Baby geese start eating 1-2 days after hatching and foraging for their food as soon as possible. In the winter, they have no access to fresh plants or grass, so they eat berries and grains.
Geese are migratory and need enough energy to move. A goose can use approximately 40% of its weight during migration. When the bird cannot find enough food before migration, it often dies of starvation or exhaustion on the journey.
Some species will not migrate and instead use local food sources to survive the winter. Eating nutritionally poor food can cause the bird to develop physical deformities or die of nutritional deficiencies.
– Housing and Care
Though geese can survive in freezing conditions, there is a limit to how much they can withstand. Wild geese will use their shared body heat and down layers to keep warm in the cold but can die if the temperatures drop too low. As such, when domesticated, you should ensure the birds are warm enough.
Moreover, geese live near water bodies because these provide a secure environment to flee from predators in the wild. The birds nest in a high place so they can easily see predators and defend themselves.
Parasites and diseases can cause the death or incapacity of geese or make them more vulnerable to predators. Some common geese diseases include erysipelas, salmonella, aspergillosis, coccidiosis, and duck virus enteritis. As social birds, geese thrive in large flocks.
This means diseases can easily be passed among them, often through close contact and droppings. Unlike their domesticated counterparts, wild geese often have no access to medication and often die from diseases.
Goslings and eggs are particularly vulnerable to the many predators geese have in the wild. Large predators like bobcats, foxes, and coyotes often attack adult geese, while smaller predators like snakes, larger birds, and raccoons eat goslings and eggs.
Geese are at a somewhat higher risk of predation than ganders because they spend long periods protecting their eggs in the nest. The birds defend themselves by making a lot of noise to scare off predators and alert their flocks. They also use their powerful beaks and wings to injure predators.
How to Extend the Lifespan of Domestic Geese?
With an understanding of the determinants of a goose’s lifespan, here are the steps you can take to extend the life of your domestic bird.
- Provide at least a quarter acre of grass for your geese to feed on, along with seeds, berries, and nuts.
- Geese love water so ensure that there is a water source nearby. This need not be a pond or lake; you can even have a large tub of safe drinking water.
- Get prompt medical attention for your sick goose.
- Have a secure enclosure for your geese. This should be well built to keep out predators and keep the birds warm.
- Geese can be easily alarmed by humans or other pets near their nests. Do not expose them to threats like dogs and unfamiliar people, especially in the spring when they are incubating eggs, because they will become defensive and might get hurt.
Most people know of geese as the birds that honk and nip when angry and are best kept as far away as possible. This explains why some people keep geese as guards. Nonetheless, geese are obedient and super friendly and can become exceptional pets when raised well. They can also be commercially bred for their eggs, meat, and soft down feathers.
From the article above, you can now confidently keep geese because you know how long you can expect to spend with them to maximize your benefits. Some geese breeds like Chinese and Emperor geese are facing extinction.
Domesticating them means playing a crucial part in their protection. Before getting a goose, check your local laws, which might restrict the breed you can keep or where you can keep them because of their noise, which might make them unsuitable when you have neighbors near you.