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 (with the exception of the Néné) associated to a greater or lesser extent 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.

Geese have been domesticated for centuries. In the West, farmyard geese are descended from the Greylag, but in Asia the Swan Goose has been farmed for at least as long.

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 Anser or Chen (depending on authority cited)
  • Snow Goose Anser caerulescens or Chen caerulescens
  • Ross's Goose, A. rossii or C. rossii
  • Emperor Goose, A. canagicus or C. canagica

Genus Branta, Black Geese Genus Cereopsis There are a number of mainly southern hemisphere birds named as geese which are more corrrectly placed with the shelducks in the Tadorninae. These are:

  • Andean Goose, Chloephaga melanoptera
  • Upland Goose, Chloephaga picta
  • Kelp Goose, Chloephaga hybrida
  • Ashy-headed Goose, Chloephaga poliocephala
  • Ruddy-headed Goose, Chloephaga rubidiceps
  • Orinoco Goose, Neochen jubata
  • Egyptian Goose, Alopochen aegyptiacus

The odd Magpie Goose is in a family of its own, the Anseranatidae.

The Anseriformes and the Galliformes ( pheasants etc) 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".

Geese in fiction

There is the goose that laid the golden eggs, warning about the perils of being too greedy. And there is also the poem Goosy Goosy Gander

See also: wildfowl, waterfowl

Goose can have some other meanings in slang.

  • A fool (Common in the works of Wodehouse) or someone who is shy (also goosy/goosey).
  • A (usually sexual) attack on the posterior of the body.