Differences Between Geese & Ducks

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Geese and ducks are closely related waterfowl of the family Anatidae. The two have significant differences, primarily in their size, coloration and vocalization, as well as their eating and migratory habits. Geese and ducks can live in similar home environments, both in the wild and in domestication, and sometimes share the same living space. They are, however, distinct species of birds and will not produce young if housed together. Although geese and ducks are waterfowl, they only need to be able to wet their food before they eat and do not require bodies of water to thrive.

Body Shape and Size

Geese tend to be larger than ducks, although some exceptions do exist to this rule. Ducks typically have longer and broader bodies than do geese, making them more suited for living on the water than the other birds. They usually have shorter necks than possessed by geese, as well.

Feather Coloration and Patterns

Male ducks possess a broad color palette, with different species wearing feathers of bright blue and green, as well as white, gray, brown and other colors. They may have bold patterns, such as possessed by the wood duck drake. Female ducks are usually less colorful than the males of the same species. Geese possess a more limited palette. Their feathers are only white, gray, brown or black. They are often primarily monochromatic, like the snow goose, or have less flamboyant patterns than ducks, such as the familiar Canada goose. Male and female geese of the same species typically share the same color and pattern.

Typical Vocalization

Geese and duck have a wide range of vocalizations. They both can make peeping or hissing sounds. Geese are mostly recognized by their loud honking vocalizations, while ducks have a more low-pitched quaking sound.

Habits and Lifestyle

  • Migration: Geese tend to migrate longer distances than ducks do. Some ducks do not migrate at all.
  • Breeding: Geese and ducks are both monogamous. However, geese tend to form long-lasting, perhaps lifelong, relationships while ducks are frequently monogamous throughout a breeding season, changing mates the following year.
  • Eating: Geese are vegetarians. They eat both vegetation and grains. Ducks will eat plants, but also eat fish, worms, slugs, mollusks, frogs and other small animals.

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