Geese and ducks are both fascinating waterfowl, with the ability to both swim and fly. Both are friendly with their species, with the tendency to congregate in flocks. Both have flattened bills with efficient edges to help them process food. Both have webbed feet and can swim from a very early age. When you first see them, they probably seem pretty much the same. So how can you tell the difference between ducks and geese?
Is it diving?
Every duck can dive. Geese cannot, although they are very strong at swimming and there are even species of geese who can swim in the ocean.
Is it eating on land?
Since they can not dive, the goose normally feeds on land, where it consumes grass and grain.
A duck will dive for water plants, fish, mollusks and other aquatic life. They will eat some things on land but it is not their preference.
How well is it walking?
Ducks have short necks, are small and chubby, and have stubby legs that aren’t too efficient when walking. They are much more awkward in this way.
A goose is more well-balanced in its body. It has longer legs and neck, and its bigger body carries a goose along much more gracefully than a duck.
What is the plumage like?
Ducks and geese have different molting schedules. Ducks molt twice a year, and when males aren’t breeding, their plumage is the same as the females. When breeding, the plumage of a male duck is much more colorful than the female’s.
Male and female geese appear the same in plumage at all times of year.
Where do they nest?
Geese nest in hollows, where it is marshy or grassy. Ducks will nest just about anywhere, including in the hollows or gaps of trees.
What is their flight like?
Ducks are quieter, and their flock in flight is more loosely formed. You’ll see stragglers, and there isn’t usually a tight pattern.
When geese are flying in a flock, you’ll most often see them in formation, either a long straight line or a rather impressive “V” pattern. They are also very noisy, often honking boisterously during flight.
Once you have learned the differences between ducks and geese, it may surprise you that there was ever a time you could not distinguish between these animals that seem to similar on the surface.
Joy of Nature, p. Reader’s Digest 1977