Geese are large birds that you’ll often see near lakes, ponds, and wetlands. You may have noticed that like most birds, it’s quite difficult to tell how old an adult goose is. That’s probably left you wondering how long do geese live in the wild?
The average life expectancy of a wild goose is 10-15 years. The oldest known wild goose lived to 33 years old. Around one-third of baby geese will die before they reach adulthood. The lifespan of a goose is impacted by several factors including the species, health, and habitat.
If you want to know more about what affects a goose’s lifespan then keep reading. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about the challenges geese face and need to survive. You’ll also learn what to expect from each species and how you can help them live longer.
Let’s jump in.
How long do geese live in the wild?
The age a goose will live to will vary for each species. There are stories of geese living for 30-40 years old, yet the majority of wild geese will only live around 12 years.
You may be wondering why there is such a big difference in the survival rates of geese. After all, some geese appear to live around 3 times longer than others.
The reason for this is that living conditions are just better for some geese. When their living conditions are right then the geese can live a long and healthy life. And if they aren’t then they will likely die very young.
Like with most wild animals geese are a lot more vulnerable when they are very young and very old. Around 20-30% of geese will die before they reach adulthood.
Once the geese reach adulthood, those living conditions will be the greatest impact on the gooses’ survival.
Let’s look at what things affect a gooses’ life span.
Factors affecting Geese lifespan
The species of goose plays a large role in how long they will survive in the wild. That’s because each species will have differences in its living conditions, eating habits, and behaviors.
Let’s look at the age ranges of the most common goose species.
As geese are quite a large bird species they generally live longer than smaller bird species. That’s because geese have a slower metabolism than smaller bird species, so their bodies don’t wear out quickly.
There is no significant difference in the rate of survival between male and female geese. In other animal species, it’s common for males to die before females. This is for various reasons such as ongoing competition for mates, defending territory, or migrating ahead. Yet this doesn’t apply to geese.
As geese mate for life, they share these roles equally, which does not cause either gender to burn out quicker.
2. Food Sources
Geese eat plants and vegetation as the bulk of their diet. Yet as wild animals their diet tends to vary with what’s seasonally available for them.
Wintertime means they often don’t have access to fresh grass or plants. During this time they’ll opt for more grains and berries to eat. If they can’t find enough food, they may need to travel further afield in search of a good supply.
Geese lay their eggs early in the year so their goslings have enough fat supplies to survive winter and to migrate.
Geese are migratory birds and they need to maintain their energy supplies to make it through the journey to their mating grounds. Depending on the migration length a goose will need to put on around 40% of its weight for migration.
If the goose can’t source enough food before the journey then they can die. Usually from exhaustion or starvation before they arrive at their destination.
Some geese species won’t migrate. They’ll have to tough out the winter with local food sources. If they don’t find enough food they also won’t last the winter. Sometimes geese will rely on poor food sources fed by humans such as white bread. Eating too much nutritionally poor food can result in geese developing physical deformities.
Regardless of the species, baby geese need to learn to forage for food themselves as soon as they can. They are even born with tomia, a tooth-like structure on their beak, to allow them to start eating around 1-2 days after they hatch.
Geese have a lot of natural predators in the wild. Their eggs and goslings are particularly vulnerable to predator attack.
Common geese predators include:
- Large birds
The smaller of these animals will generally only eat the goose eggs and goslings. These are much easier to prey on than an adult goose. Because eggs and chicks are so vulnerable geese spend a lot of time and energy protecting their nests.
The larger animals such as coyotes, foxes, and bobcats will also attack the adult geese to eat. Yet geese are aggressive birds and they’ll put up quite a fight to protect their eggs, chicks, and themselves. Female geese are at a slightly higher risk of predators as they spend long periods in their nests protecting the eggs.
Geese can protect themselves and other geese by making lots of noise. Their wings and beaks are powerful and can cause a lot of damage to an animal trying to attack them.
The health of the goose plays a big part in their survival rates. Disease and parasites can result in death or incapacity making the geese more vulnerable to predators.
Common diseases geese contract are:
- Derzys disease
- Duck Virus Enetrisis (DVE)
Geese are very social birds and will often spend time in large flocks. This closeness can mean the disease is passed on easily between them. Usually, the transmission is through feces, but may also be through close contact allowing fleas and ticks access to new hosts.
Injured, starving, old, or young geese are much more susceptible to contracting these diseases.
Wild geese don’t have access to the medicines that domesticated geese do. That means they will succumb to the disease or remain vulnerable during a period of ill health.
Habitats and behaviors that geese engage in can make them more susceptible to injury. An injured goose may be unable to fly, find food, flee from predators, and can contract an infection. Although they often have a paired goose that will stay with them for protection.
A lot of injuries that a goose will sustain in the wild are the result of human interference. A big risk to geese is collisions with objects such as cars, boats, fishing lines, aircraft, wind turbines, and power lines.
Humans can cause further injury to wild geese through hunting for food and sport. Around 20 million geese are killed each year through licensed hunts. If a goose doesn’t die immediately it can be left with either an internal or external injury to which it will likely succumb.
Goose injuries can also be inflicted when they are trying to defend themselves. Often this is from predator attacks. Geese are extremely loyal birds and will fight to the death to defend their nests.
Aggression is high amongst the species themselves, particularly the males. They will often fight with each other to seek out good nesting sites and mates. These fights can easily end with serious injuries such as broken wings or large open wounds.
Despite the fact that a lot of geese species can withstand freezing cold conditions, there is a limit to this.
Geese usually use tactics such as their down layers, positioning, and shared body heat to stay warm in cold weather conditions. However, if the temperatures drop too low they can still freeze to death from exposure.
If the geese can’t get enough protection, then they are likely to die during harsh weather conditions.
Other environmental threats to geese are the impact of severe weather. That includes fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and storms. These can directly kill geese but also destroy their habitat and food sources.
7. Migratory Behaviour
Migration is a natural behavior for some species of geese. They have the urge to travel to and from breeding and non-breeding spots at certain times of the year. This may help them with low food supplies or give their young a better chance of survival.
Each geese species will have its own migration routes, with some being a lot more treacherous than others.
Migration is risky for geese as it requires a lot of energy to travel hundreds or thousands of miles. Ensuring they have enough energy onboard is always a risk.
Weirdly enough being noisy during flight helps them to save energy. Check out why in my guide about why geese honk when they fly.
Migration risks include navigating new territory with unknown predators, landscapes, and food sources. Yet geese will fly together in a flock for safety in numbers.
Once the geese arrive at their new destination they have to seek out a good nesting spot. This is when a lot of the fighting behaviors amongst males happen, to secure a good spot.
How to help Geese to live longer
Geese have a good lifespan, yet there is no denying that we humans have a huge impact on their species. The good news is that there are a few things that you can do to minimize your impact on the local geese populations.
Let’s look at 5 ways you can help geese to live longer.
1. Don’t cause alarm
Geese are fairly well adapted to living alongside humans, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a threat to them.
Geese can become easily alarmed by the presence of humans or even pet dogs near them or their nests. Often they waste precious energy trying to chase you or your dog off. Leaving the nest puts the eggs or chicks at risk of real predators prowling nearby.
The best way to avoid a goose attack is to be vigilant of geese nesting in the area in the spring. If you have a dog, try to keep them on a leash near elevated areas with fresh water nearby. If you spot a goose in the area immediately place your dog on a leash to keep you both protected.
2. Don’t feed them
Geese are wild animals and you shouldn’t interfere with their diet by feeding them. The reason is that they become reliant on humans for food and may become aggressive if they don’t get any.
Also, humans offer geese nutritionally poor food such as white bread. This can cause the geese nutritional deficiencies which lead to physical deformities such as ‘angel wing’.
3. Deter humanely
Geese can be a pest if they decide to nest near your home. Yet it’s important to remember that some geese are migratory birds and protected by laws and you cannot cause harm to them, their eggs, or nests.
You are allowed to humanely scare aware the geese as long as it causes no harm. This makes the geese think that the area is unsafe and they likely won’t nest there. Another method is to make the area unattractive for the geese to live. This includes reducing food and nesting areas, as well as increasing their sense that predators are close by.
4. Don’t relocate
Trying to trap and relocate a goose is a risky strategy. Geese are extremely aggressive and you’ll need a large trap to do this successfully.
Relocating wild animals always come with the risk that they are placed into new and unknown locations. This puts them at risk of being attacked by predators or other geese aggressively defending their territory.
Relocated geese may also be females who have a nest of eggs or chicks to protect. Once the mother is relocated the chicks will likely be killed by predators the longer it lays unprotected.
5. Find a rehabber
If you have found a sick, orphaned, or injured goose then the best thing to do is call a wildlife rehabber.
They will be able to give you advice on what to do. They may be able to provide some care for the goose and release it back into the wild.
Don’t try to trap the goose yourself, leave it in situ, stay close by and alert the rehabber to its location. Otherwise, you may put the goose or yourself at risk of injury.
Check out this list for the humane society to find your local wildlife rehabilitator.
Do geese live over 100 years?
There are some people that believe that geese can live for hundreds of years. This information is likely stemmed from the World Almanac, a popular reference book of facts.
There is no modern-day evidence that this is true. The oldest wild-banded goose lived until the age of 33. The oldest known captive goose lived in the UK until the age of 49.
Under the right conditions, most geese will live for up to 25-30 years. This means providing a suitable diet, healthcare, predator protection, and shelter.
Wild geese will usually live for around 10-15 years depending on the species. If they live in ideal conditions then they are likely to live a lot longer than this. There are a few factors that most wild geese will encounter including food scarcity, predators, disease, and migration. All these present great risks for a goose to survive.
Humans have a large part to play in the untimely death of geese. There are simple ways you can live alongside geese in harmony without impacting their lifespan.