What Do Geese Eat?

Canadian goose swimming
© Joseph Scott Photography/Shutterstock.com

Written by Patrick Sather

Published: December 31, 2021

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Have you ever gone to a local pond or lake and seen people throwing bread into the water? Chances are you have, and it’s also likely that these people were throwing bread to feed some wild geese. Geese are common waterfowl in the family Anatidae. Most species migrate south for the winter, but some will remain in temperate areas year-round. Whether they migrate or not, you will often see geese in grassy fields or near the edges of ponds or lakes. Many people enjoy feeding geese bread or crackers and see it as a harmless activity. However, these people likely don’t know that these seemingly harmless foods can be bad for a goose. Geese that eat too much processed food can develop health issues including joint pain and deformities. This begs the question, “what do geese eat, and what can you feed them so they stay healthy?”

Today, we’ll answer these questions along with other topics related to the diet of geese. We’ll start off by discussing what geese like to eat. Then, we’ll examine how geese forage and hunt for food. After that, we’ll compare what geese eat in the wild versus what domesticated geese eat. Finally, we’ll end with a discussion of what baby geese eat. So, get ready to learn all about how to keep a goose healthy, as we answer the question, “what do geese eat?”

What Do Geese Like to Eat?

Geese primarily live on plant matter like grains, leaves, roots, and berries.

Geese are omnivores, which means that both plant and animal matter is included in their diet. That said, plant matter makes up the bulk of their diet, with only a small percentage devoted to animal protein. Like humans, geese develop tastes for certain foods. Some geese will prefer to eat specific foods, while some geese will favor others. That said, while geese may enjoy eating crackers and bread, these foods aren’t particularly good for them. All things considered, most geese will eat a fairly similar diet. As such, we’ve compiled a list of 10 foods that most geese like to eat. These are foods that you’ll likely find a goose eating in the wild. Additionally, these are also safe foods to feed to your domesticated or pet goose. Here are 10 foods that geese like to eat: 

  • Roots
  • Leaves
  • Grasses
  • Weeds
  • Berries
  • Grains
  • Insects
  • Fish
  • Seeds
  • Vegetables

How Do Geese Hunt and Forage for Food? 

Do Geese Have Teeth

Geese mostly rely on their sharp eyesight and sense of touch to locate food.

©Yavuz Alhan/Shutterstock.com

Geese possess the same senses as humans, meaning that they rely on sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste to interpret information. Overall, sight is definitely the sense that geese rely on most to find food. Their eyes allow them to see objects in clear detail at distances nearly 2 to 3 times farther away than what humans can see. While they have poor depth perception, their panoramic vision allows them to detect predators and also locate foods. Aside from sight, geese also rely on touch. Their sensitive touch receptors along their bill help them to locate succulent plants while foraging. Geese also use hearing to locate food, especially when it comes to finding fish underwater. Research also suggests that geese can differentiate between different foods according to smell. Finally, although geese possess taste buds, their sense of taste is not as evolved as humans. 

Predominantly, geese are foragers, and spend the majority of their time grazing widely for food. Vegetable matter makes up more than 90% of a goose’s diet, with the other 10% or less coming from animal protein. As such, you’ll usually find geese grazing in a field looking for grass, sedges, or other plant matter. While grazing, geese use their strong beaks and sharp teeth to pull up roots and chew grasses and other plants. If available, they will also hunt for insects or insect larvae in the grass. When not grazing in fields, geeze will also spend time foraging for aquatic plants in ponds. They find plants underwater using their touch receptors in their beaks. In addition, they will occasionally catch fish, although they only do this on rare occasions. That said, most of their days are spent pulling up plants and grazing for greens. 

What Do Geese Eat in the Wild?

Highest Flying Birds-Bar-headed Goose

Wild geese will forage for aquatic plants and may even catch fish.

©Ian Duffield/Shutterstock.com

In the wild, the types of foods that geese eat varies mostly depending on the seasons and local environment. Generally speaking, geese feed mostly on grasses, sedges, and softer plants during the spring and summer. Common grasses include bluegrass, timothy, and orchard grass. In the winter, they tend to feed more on seeds, grains, and berries, which are more carbohydrate-rich. The plants that geese eat vary depending on their habitat, although there are some common foods. For example, wild geese enjoy alfalfa, clover, barley, corn, oats, wheat, beans, and rice. Geese also eat a variety of different insects, which they will consume all year in the wild. Some insects that geese eat include grasshoppers and beetles. They will also consume earthworms and insect larvae when available. Occasionally, wild geese will also catch and eat small fish that they catch in lakes, ponds, or rivers. 

What Do Domesticated Geese Eat?

Geese should not eat chocolate, chips, candy, or other processed junk food.

©Iva Vagnerova/Shutterstock.com

Overall, domesticated geese tend to eat a lot of the same foods as wild geese. Geese allowed to graze outdoors will eat grasses, weeds, roots, and stems, and will also hunt for insects. Domesticated geese can also eat vegetables such as cauliflower, lettuce, and root vegetable greens. Although geese can tolerate seeds, you should be careful when feeding them commercial birdseed. Many bird seed brands lack the appropriate nutrition that a goose needs, and are just full of empty calories. When feeding your goose, stick to whole grains like oats, barley, wheat, and rice. In addition, many people who raise geese as pets or for food will add additional supplements to their diet. Waterfowl formulas contain just about everything that a goose needs to stay healthy. Also, you’ll want to avoid feeding geese certain foods. Foods that geese should not eat include candy, chips, chocolate, bread, and avocados. 

 What Do Baby Geese Eat?

Chinese gosling in the grass

Goslings are able to fend for themselves only 1 or 2 days after birth.

©Leena Robinson/Shutterstock.com

Baby geese, or goslings, are able to walk, eat, and drink when they are only 1 or 2 days old. As such, they are very self-sufficient. In the wild, baby geese will eat many of the same foods as adult geese. That said, the staple foods of a gosling’s diet are soft grasses and vegetation like clover and chickenweed. In addition to grasses, baby geese will also dine on grubs and worms when they can catch them. If you’re raising baby goslings, you can also supplement their diet with an appropriate pellet formula. Common formulas include things like cracked corn, oats, wheat, and other grains. You’ll just want to make sure to keep the feed dry and not feed baby geese moldy pellets. Also, baby geese need plenty of fresh water to drink, and should not be fed any foods that could be toxic to geese. 

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