Geese are large waterfowl in the Anatidae family with long, curving necks, short legs, and webbed feet. These large birds are closely related to ducks and swans, often living with them around wetlands, lakes, ponds, and rivers.
Like ducks and swans, geese are grazing herbivores. Their diet primarily consists of grasses, seeds, and aquatic plants. These birds have adapted well to landscapes altered by humans for development and agriculture.
Geese are migratory birds, with some traveling long distances between their breeding and overwintering grounds. They are social animals, usually traveling in flocks with over thirty birds, that create a cacophony of honking wherever they go.
What Do Canadian Geese Eat?
Canadian Geese, or Canada Geese, were once nearly driven to extinction in North America. However, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act helped save the species from overhunting and habitat destruction by establishing hunting regulations.
Like all geese, Canadian Geese are herbivores, eating a diet of grasses, seeds, grains, and aquatic plants. Some see these birds as a nuisance because large, noisy flocks live in parks or lakeshores where they leave a mess of goose droppings.
Excessive goose droppings can create a human health hazard around bodies of water. The coliform bacteria level in the water and the surrounding shoreline can be high when many geese congregate there, lowering water quality and creating unsafe swimming conditions.
Nuisance geese can be a challenge, especially if people are feeding them nearby, but homeowners can seek help if they cannot discourage geese without causing them harm. Professional wildlife removal companies and natural resource professionals can help.
Open grassy shorelines provide geese with a nice place to walk. Some homeowners find that stringing a line around their yard and along the water’s edge can discourage them from entering. Others plant gardens and grow their grass long to keep geese away.
What Do Wild Geese Eat?
The honking of wild geese flying overhead is the iconic sign of fall as thousands of geese migrate south in V-formations while flying from one body of water to another and stopping off to graze in wetlands, lakes, and ponds.
Wild geese live around water because they primarily eat grasses, seeds, aquatic plants, and shoreline vegetation that grow around the water. In addition, researchers have found small fish and invertebrates in their stomachs, but these are likely incidental catches from grazing.
Humans encountering geese at parks and lakes sometimes feed them bread or crackers. However, these food items are unhealthy for geese and can cause them to fill their stomachs with non-nutritious food, leaving no room for the food they need to eat to be healthy.
People should not feed geese because it is unhealthy and because geese that become accustomed to finding food around humans can become a nuisance when they start associating people with food.
What Do Domestic Geese Eat?
Some farmers raise domestic geese for their eggs and meat and sell those products commercially. In addition to farming, domestic geese live in zoos and parks where visitors routinely interact with and feed them.
Domestic geese are omnivores and often eat whatever they can find, including grasses, bird seeds, vegetables, fruits, and grains, such as oats, wheat, and corn. Some farmers or caretakers feed their geese commercial feed and hay.
Occasionally, domestic geese eat small insects or crustaceans while grazing. Some people feed their domestic geese treats of grubs or mealworms, giving them a little extra protein. This extra protein is critical for farmers breeding geese.
What Do Baby Geese Eat?
Baby geese, called goslings, can feed themselves within hours of hatching. Once all of the chicks that live in a nest hatch, the mother goose leaves the nest with them, and they begin wandering around the shoreline and paddling around the water.
Goslings learn what to eat from watching their parents. Because of that, the diet of goslings is similar to that of adults, consisting of various grasses, seeds, berries, and the occasional insect or crustacean.
Farmers feed domestic goslings a variety of grasses and cover crops, such as alfalfa, clover, chickweed, bluegrass, orchard grass, timothy grass, bromegrass, barley, wheat, and rye commonly found in high-quality pastures where they graze.
What Do Geese Eat in the Winter?
Throughout their range, many geese migrate south in the fall and north in the spring. All Snow Geese migrate south from their breeding grounds, but not all Canada Geese migrate south. Some Canada Geese choose to be year-round residents, even in the north.
During the breeding season in spring and summer, geese maintain a diet of 80% grasses, sedges, eelgrass, and skunk cabbage and 20% grains and seeds. During the winter, geese shift to more berries, seeds, grains, and corn because grasses do not grow as much.
Geese also scavenge for food from garbage left on the ground, especially in areas where food is scarce during winter. In areas with many houses, they sometimes congregate around bird feeders, eating cracked corn and sunflower seeds.