Geese vs. Ducks – What Is the Difference?

Most people know little about the beautiful migratory birds called geese. They assume these are the same animals as swans and ducks. Geese, ducks, and swans are waterfowls that belong to the Anatidae family. They inhabit freshwater bodies like streams, marshes, ponds, and streams. All waterfowls in this family have broad, flat bills and webbed feet.

Geese, ducks, and swans travel in flocks. Furthermore, their offspring imprint on what they see first after hatching. This means that the babies will think that whatever they see first after hatching is their mother.

Most people confuse ducks and geese. It is believed that these two waterfowls came from the Subclade bird family about 20 million years ago. This explains why the two birds share many features and might be confused for the same animals.

Though geese and ducks share many similarities, they are also different. Distinguishing them might be hard at first, but the guidelines below will help you understand these two birds.

Geese vs Ducks – Differences and Similarities

The following are the aspects that distinguish ducks from geese:

– Body Size

In general, ducks are smaller than geese. However, there are some exceptionally large duck breeds and small geese breeds. Geese tend to have longer legs and bodies compared to ducks. A duck will have a short body and evidently short legs in most cases.

The weight of a duck depends on its gender and species. A domestic drake often weighs 1-5kg, while a duck weighs 1-2 kg. The smallest duck species weighs a maximum of 0.2kg, while the largest can weigh up to 22kg. On average, ducks have body lengths of 4-5 inches.

The size of geese also depends on the species. For instance, a male Canadian goose weighs 2.5-6.5kg while the female weighs 2.5-5.5kg. Moreover, Canadian geese have average body lengths of 30-43 inches and wingspans of 50-73 inches.

– Neck Length

The first thing that most people will use to differentiate geese and ducks is the size of their necks. Usually, a goose has a longer neck than a duck. This is apart from the snow goose species that has a shorter neck than other breeds. The longer neck in geese is because of its 23 neck vertebrae compared to the 16 or less in a duck.

Most duck species have average neck lengths of 13cm measured from the back of the head to the front of the body. A Canadian goose, the most common breed, has a neck length of 75-110 cm.

Nonetheless, remember that geese retract or elongate their necks when flying. As such, it is best to check a bird’s neck length when it is seated or swimming.

– Feather Size and Color

There are several types of geese and ducks in different colors. Even so, geese are largely less colorful than ducks. The geese are usually tan, gray, white, or black, while the ducks are generally multicolored.

In ducks, the drakes are often brighter-colored than the females. The dull color in ducks is meant to camouflage them from predators when in their nests. In geese, there exists no evident color difference between males and females.

– Diet and Nutrition

There are three types of ducks, including dabbling diving and sea ducks. Dabbling ducks tip their heads in the water while their tails and feet stick up to eat. Diving ducks swim underwater to seek and catch their prey.

Sea ducks dive into marine habitats for their food. The classification of a duck generally determines its diet. However, the birds are omnivores who often eat insects, small crustaceans, plants, amphibians, snails, worms, fish, reptiles, and almost anything they can scoop in their flat bills.

On the other hand, geese are primarily vegetarians. Their short, pointed, notched bills are best-suited for grazing on shrubs, grasses, stems, and plants.

Some species like the Canadian geese submerge their heads in water to graze on aquatic plants. Geese also eat roots, stems, bulbs, grains, and sometimes insects when they cannot get plants.

– Egg Size and Color

A goose’s egg is bigger than a duck’s, sometimes even twice the size of a duck’s egg. In general, ducks lay white eggs, but some breeds like Magpies, Mallards, Runners, and Anconas have pale blue/green eggs. Even ducks of the same species can lay eggs of different colors. Conversely, all geese lay white eggs.

– Egg Production

Getting delicious eggs is one of the motivations for keeping geese and ducks. The eggs from these birds are also more nutritious than those from chicken. Compared to ducks, wild geese generally lay fewer eggs.

Geese lay 2-7 eggs while wild ducks lay 5-18 eggs, depending on their species. On the other hand, domesticated geese lay up to 50 eggs annually while ducks lay up to 250 eggs in the same period.

The best geese breeds for egg production are Chinese and African geese though they are also quite loud. Backyard farmers can settle for the less noisy Sebastopol breed that is quite docile. The best duck breed for egg production is the Khaki Campbell that lays over 200 eggs annually.

The Cayuga is an astonishing egg-laying duck. It is a shiny blackbird that lays ink-black eggs at the start of spring. These eggs slowly become gray as the season continues and finally become white.

– Lifespan

Generally, geese are considered hardier than ducks as concerns their longevity. Wild geese will live for a longer time than wild ducks. While ducks have lifespans of 10-15 years, geese live for 15-20 years.

However, large duck breeds live shorter lives than small breeds. Most seldom live past 5-7 years. Domesticated geese and ducks live longer than wild ones when well cared for.

– Sounds

Another difference between ducks and geese is the sounds they produce. Geese are honking, while ducks are quacking, and oh boy, sometimes they do quack a lot.

Can Ducks And Geese Mate?

Yes, ducks and geese can mate. Though it rarely happens, different species have bred and had interesting outcomes. Geese and ducks have similar sex organs, and thus, no harm will happen if these birds decide to mate. Nonetheless, the chances that the resultant offspring survives the embryo stage are slim.

If the offspring survives, it is hard, if not entirely impossible, to reproduce because it would be infertile. The infertility arises from the difference in the number of chromosomes in ducks and geese.

Some breeders claim that they have come across geese-duck hybrid in the wild, but these might not be the results of mating. Some geese sometimes look like ducks, so the breeders might be confusing them.

Can Ducks And Geese Live Together?

Yes, ducks and geese can live together. Ducks and geese get along relatively well. Since they are both waterfowls, their care needs are almost similar. This makes their care easy.

The main elements to keep in mind when keeping geese and ducks are the personalities of your birds. You might need more caution when keeping smaller duck breeds with confrontational geese.

Similarly, keeping an aggressive drake around female geese can also be challenging. If your ducks and geese do not get along, consider having a safe space in your coop where more docile birds can be kept alone.

Ducks and geese sometimes fight, but these fights are not fatal. Geese also sometimes harass or attack ducks because of their larger sizes, but they will not kill them.

Conclusion

The association between geese and ducks dates back centuries. The birds hail from the same family, share similar characteristics, and have an uncanny resemblance. The confusion that sees both birds placed in the same category is thus understandable. They are, however, scientifically species. In fact, some species of geese previously thought to be ducks have been recently reclassified.

You can choose one or both for your farm or backyard coop with your knowledge of aspects that differentiate geese and birds. Before keeping any of these birds, evaluate your local law.

You might need a permit to keep the birds in some jurisdictions, depending on the sizes of your duck or goose and its species.

Ducks, Geese

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