Male vs. Female Goose

Written by Gabrielle Monia
Published: January 10, 2023
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Geese are known for their loud honk-like calls and a characteristic v-shaped flight pattern. They are highly susceptible to the process of imprinting in which newly hatched goslings will accept the first living being they see as their mother. Imprinting, as well as their quirky personalities, affectionate natures and high intelligence make geese popular as pets. Males are called ganders and females are simply called geese, or sometimes dames. Let’s explore the differences between a male vs. female goose!

Comparing a Male and Female Goose

Male GooseFemale Goose
Size7-14 pounds average for wild species, 14-18 pounds for domestic5-12 pounds average for wild species, 12-16 pounds for domestic
MorphologyAutosex breeds are mostly white, larger head knob in African and Chinese geese, larger dewlap in African geeseAutosex breeds are variations of gray, smaller head knob in African and Chinese geese, smaller dewlap in African geese
VocalizationsSlow and low-pitched voice, typical ‘h-ronk!’Quick and high-pitched “hink” or “ka-ronk” sound
BehaviorElaborate courtship displays, loud honking, chasing and biting other males in competition during breeding season, protective of mate and flockChoose a mate based on displays, follow chosen mate, protective over eggs and young
ReproductionAfter mating, the male will stand guard to protect his mate and future young from potential threatsBuilds nest and lays 5-12 eggs for wild species 20-60 eggs on average for domestic. Incubates eggs for an average of 30 days before hatching

Key Differences Between a Male and Female Goose

Many birds display obvious and often elaborate differences between the sexes in terms of size or appearance. This sexual dimorphism is not as clear between male and female geese who often look very similar. There are varieties who display clear physical differences and others who show subtle differences in behavior and vocal patterns.

The key differences between a male and female goose are their vocalizations, behaviors and reproductive role. In some species, there are also clear differences in size and morphological traits.

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Bar Headed Goose, Anser indicus, mating.

Male and female geese often look very similar but differences are seen in vocalizations, behaviors and reproductive roles.

©iStock.com/slowmotiongli

Vent Sexing Geese and Ganders

Vent sexing and DNA testing are the only reliable methods of determining the sex of goslings that are not autosex varieties.  When accurate sexing of geese is required for breeding or other purposes DNA or vent sexing are recommended methods to have performed by a trained veterinarian. The vent-sexing procedure involves spreading the cent to expose their cloaca and sexual organs. A male will display a small corkscrew shaped penis. The female will show pink tissue called the genital eminence. The process requires patience and a lot of practice as it can be very dangerous to work with the delicate parts of young geese.

Male vs. Female Goose: Size

Male and female geese don’t differ wildly in size. Size differences between males and females vary among the many wild and domestic geese species. However, with most species the males tend to be slightly larger than the females. They will also typically have larger bodies, with wider heads and necks. Canadian dames weigh an average of 5-12 pounds and ganders weigh 7-14 pounds. They have a body length average of about 2.5-3.5 feet and a 4-6 foot wingspan. Pilgrim geese are a medium weight breed. Female Pilgrims weigh an average of 12-16 pounds while male Pilgrims weigh in at 14-18 pounds. 

Male pilgrim goose

Male pilgrim geese are mostly white and tend to weigh 2-4 pounds more than females who are usually gray.

©Pxfuel, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Male vs. Female Goose: Morphology

Many domestic goose varieties are auto-sex breeds. Auto-sexing means that you can determine the sex of chicks by their down color, markings and bill color. These breeds will mature into adults that maintain clearly defined feather colors between the sexes. In the Pilgrim, Shetland and West of England and Normandy breeds, females will have some gray or be mostly gray and the males will be mostly white as adults. Canadian geese are a wild species that display no physical differences between the sexes. They display the same colors and markings whether male or female.

African and Chinese geese have head knobs that vary between the sexes. This nob is on top of the beak and those of males will grow noticeably larger than those of the females. Males head knobs tend to stand upright while females may be level or have a downward tilt. African geese will display white knobs in males and gray head knobs in females. African geese also have a dewlap, which is a flap of skin that hangs below their beaks. Females’ dewlaps are usually much smaller than those of males.

Canadian geese, Canada goose

Canadian geese display the same colors and markings whether male or female.

©Daniel Wright98/Shutterstock.com

Male vs. Female Goose: Vocalizations

Geese are very vocal birds. While both males and females are talkers their voices are distinct and you can tell a male from a female by listening closely. Ganders have a slow and low-pitched voice. If you hear the typical ‘h-ronk!’ it’s likely the voice of a gander. The dames calls are a higher pitched “hink” or “ka-ronk” sound and are typically quicker. Whether male or female, the more dominant geese in a flock are significantly more vocal than their submissive counterparts.

Male vs. Female Goose: Behavior

Geese form lifelong monogamous bonds with a single partner. The courtship displays of Canada geese are typically elaborate. Courting behavior involves neck dipping of both males and females, who swim out and face each other. Female geese judge the displays of males and choose a mate based on how well she thinks he will protect her. A female goose will begin to follow a male that she has chosen as a mate and stand next to him wherever he goes. Greetings between mated pairs who were separated involve loud honking communications and head rolling of the male. You may find male geese loudly honking while chasing and biting one another. They fight over mates and defend the ones who have already chosen them.

Because male geese have a protective nature and take on the role of protecting their mate, you will probably find them to be more aggressive than females. They are the guardians of both their mates and flocks and will protect with harsh hissing and confident body postures. Female geese will display aggressive behaviors when protecting their nest, eggs or young from potential predators. Males may tend to hold themselves more upright than females who tend to have a more neutral stance.

Pair of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) showing mating behavior

The courtship displays of Canada geese are typically elaborate, fighting over mates and defending the ones who have already chosen them.

©Richard Hadfield/Shutterstock.com

Male vs. Female Goose: Reproduction

During the breeding season pairs will mate to produce a clutch of 5 to 12 eggs. This is the average clutch size for wild geese species but domestic geese have been bred to produce much higher quantities. An average of 20 to 60 eggs and up to 160 eggs per year are laid by domesticated geese. The female chooses a spot to build a bowl-like nest that is near water, isolated and a bit elevated from its immediate surroundings. She will lay the eggs and have the responsibility of incubating them for about a month until they hatch the goslings. The male will stand guard during this process to protect his mate and future young from potential threats.

A greylag goose in a nest near the water's edge

The female goose chooses a spot to build a bowl-like nest that is near water, isolated and a bit elevated from its immediate surroundings.

©karegg/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Gabrielle is a freelance writer with a focus on animals, nature and travel. A Pacific Northwest native, she now resides in the high desert beneath towering ponderosa pines with her beloved dog by her side. She often writes with a coyote call or owl hoot backdrop and is visited by the local deer, squirrels, robins and crows. A committee of turkey vultures convenes nightly in the trees where she resides. Here, the flock and their ancestors have roosted for over 100 years. Her devotion to the natural world has led her to the lifelong study of plants, fungi, wildlife and the interactions between them all.

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Sources
  1. Metzer Farms, Available here: https://www.metzerfarms.com/sexing-birds.html
  2. Citizens for the Preservation of Wildlife, Inc., Available here: http://www.preservewildlife.com/canada-geese.html
  3. Beauty of Birds, Available here: https://beautyofbirds.com/keeping-geese
  4. Cackle Hatchery, Available here: https://www.cacklehatchery.com/sexing-ducklings-and-goslings