What’s the Difference Between a Goose and a Duck?

difference between a goose and a duck
Photo by sanjoy saha

It can be pretty daunting to tell apart the difference between a goose and a duck because these birds share many traits.

Ducks and geese are waterfowls that both belong to the family known as Anatidae. These waterfowls look similar; sometimes, people find it hard to tell them apart.

Since geese are migratory birds and not many people know about them, they are sometimes confused as just another breed of ducks.

Both the duck and goose have webbed feet, live on and around bodies of water, have relatively short wings, and have a broad, flat bill.

They can be found in a diverse range of habitats worldwide and on various continents apart from Antarctica. 

Despite some common morphological features that these birds share, they also differ in some ways. Let’s explore the difference between goose and duck based on the following comparison.

1. Size and Body Composition

One distinct difference between a goose and a duck is their size and body composition. Goose is more prominent in both length and weight in comparison to duck.

A goose is a medium to large-sized aquatic bird with muscular and elongated bodies and longer legs. A goose can be 30-50 inches in height and weigh 15-20 pounds.

On the other hand, a duck is a small-sized aquatic bird with a stout body. The average duck, depending on species, can be from 15-25 inches in height and weigh 2-5 pounds. The legs of a duck are also shorter and are set further back on its body.

Although both goose and duck have webbed feet designed to facilitate swimming, the webbed feet of a goose is more prominent than those on the feet of a duck.

More so, the number of duck species worldwide is considerably more than that of a goose. There are around 90 species of ducks and 29 species of geese in the world.

2. Length of the Neck

Another most apparent difference between a goose and a duck is their neck shape.

The neck of a goose is elegant and longer than a duck’s. The exception here is the snow goose, which has a noticeably shorter neck than other goose breeds.

Scientist alludes to the neck as one way of stating the difference between a goose and a duck. According to scientists, ducks have only 16 bones or fewer than that in their neck. In contrast, a goose can have 17- 24 bones in the neck.

This fact cements the apparent difference between a duck and a goose regarding the neck length.

3. Size and Shape of Bill

Even though all waterfowls have the same classic flat, wide bills, there still exists a notable difference between goose and duck in the shape and size of their bill.

A goose has short humped bills that sit higher on their face, reaching close to the top of their heads, and their nostrils are positioned further down (lower on their bills).

On the other hand, a duck has broader and longer bills, which don’t usually reach eye level with high-positioned nostrils.

4. Color

One other difference between a goose and a duck is in their appearance. Although it depends on breed, ducks are more brightly colored. The majority of ducks have varied colored feathers and intricate patterns compared to the geese, sometimes showing iridescent or metallic feathers.

Most geese, on the other hand, have a toned-down color. They are more likely to be white, grey, brown, or black.

5. Diet

Regarding dietary needs, there is also a marked difference between a goose and a duck. Geese are herbivorous creatures. They prefer feeding on the plant, like grass and shrubs.

Ducks, on the other hand, are omnivorous creatures. They feed on both plants and animals. They can be seen feeding on small fishes, insects, and aquatic plants.

As they waddle in the water, they have a unique filtering system in their mouth, which they use to filter water out of their bills without losing any food.

6. Mode of Communication

A unique difference between a goose and a duck is their mode of communication. These waterfowls make different vocal noises. Ducks produce the “quack” sound to communicate with one another. At the same time, the goose “honks” to communicate with other geese.

7. Lifespan

Another basis for comparing a goose and a duck is their lifespan and breeding pattern. For waterfowls in the wild, the goose has a longer lifespan. It can live an average of 8 to 12 years, while a duck has a shorter lifespan of 3 to 8 years.

One factor attributed to the short life span of the duck is its gentle and calm nature. On the other hand, a goose is quite aggressive and puts up a protective fight with predators, hence its ability to live longer.

It really is survival of the fittest out there in the wild. Farm-raised geese and ducks tend to live longer, though.

8. Breeding Habits

Although both birds are considered monogamous, when it comes to breeding, geese are totally monogamous in the sense that they commit to one partner for the duration of several breeding seasons and sometimes for their entire lifespan.

They usually migrate with their mates during the breeding season and raise their goslings alongside one another.

In comparison, Ducks are not truly monogamous. They remain monogamous with a partner for only a single breeding season. They usually seek out new partners the following year for breeding purposes.

Hence, we can see that breeding habit is also a yardstick for showing the difference between a goose and a duck.

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