Are you seeing geese wandering around ponds and lakes, or even your own yard? You may be wondering what it is that’s attracting them. With wild animals, one reason is always food. But what do geese eat in the wild?
Geese are primarily herbivores which means they mainly eat plants and vegetation. Grass is a staple food in a goose’s diet. Geese will also eat berries and grains during colder months. Small Insects and fish are also consumed by geese when food supplies are low.
Geese can eat a variety of foods, depending on what’s available to them. This guide will take you through the diet of a wild goose. You can use this to find out what attracts them or even to keep them out of your yard.
Let’s get started.
What do geese eat in the wild?
1. Grass & Weeds
Geese are grazing animals which means they love to feed on patches of grass and weeds. In fact, an adult goose can eat around 2.2lb (1kg) of grass every day. They are like nature’s lawnmowers and are very good at keeping grassy areas well maintained.
Geese will come across weeds and clover as they eat, and consume this alongside the grass. Although they are quite particular in the grasses that they eat. Generally speaking, geese will have a preference for short grasses such as fescue. This is the type of grass that people use for lawns.
Other types of grasses the geese eat are:
- Orchard Grass
Grass is plentiful in both urban and rural areas, which means geese will usually find a plentiful supply in spring, summer, and autumn. In the winter months, access to large volumes of grass can be difficult when the ground is frozen or covered in snow.
Grass contains lots of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that keep geese healthy and growing. They use their beaks to pull it out of the ground by the roots. Geese will often inspect the grass before they eat it to ensure they are taking in quality as well as quantity.
2. Grains & seeds
Geese will come across lots of seeds and grains as they graze around. They are happy to eat these as part of their diet. Their tongues are equipped with a lingual nail, which is a small feathered tip to help them scoop up the seed and grains.
Geese will find seeds and grains in fields, yards, and generally where there are other plants nearby. Trees are also a good source of seeds for geese.
Grains are a large part of a goose’s diet, especially in winter when grasses are harder to find. These can help them to bulk up before migration. Seeds and grains are full of energy, nutrients, and vitamins that keep a goose healthy.
Common grains geese eats are:
3. Plants & flowers
Geese are partial to eating lots of plants. They tend to go for the young shoots which is soft and green. Yet they can be seen eating many parts of the plant including roots, shoots, stems, leaves, and bulbs.
Geese generally don’t have a preference for the type of plant and will eat decorative, vegetable, herb, and bean plants.
Geese are not fussy about what types of plants they eat and will give most things a go. Basically, they’ll eat pretty much any plant as it grows. That means they take in a large variety of plant vegetation.
It’s easier to say that the only plants geese avoid are those which are toxic or bitter tasting. You can check out an extensive list of what plants are toxic to geese on the Open Sanctuary Projects database.
Geese will mostly eat plants on land but some species will submerge their heads in water to eat aquatic plants. Like land plants, they’ll give most aquatic plants a nibble.
Some popular aquatic plants they like to eat from the water are:
- Mares tail
- Wild Celery
4. Fruits & Berries
When food supplies are lower geese will turn their attention from the lack of greenery to fruit and berries. They will often find these whilst foraging almost plants or hedgerows.
Soft and fleshy fruits and berries are ideal for the geese to pick up and eat easily. Geese will even give the fruit blossoms a try as they pop up during the spring months.
Fruit with tougher skins or rinds is not easily eaten by geese. Their beaks are unable to break into the fruit and chew to the flesh inside. But, geese would manage to eat these if they were chopped up first.
Some common fruits and blossoms that geese eat include:
Fruit provides geese with lots of vitamins, fiber, and water into their diet. Berries are a favorite as they are soft, sweet, and crammed full of seeds. The geese prefer fresh fruits and will avoid ones that are moldy and rotten.
Geese are primarily herbivores, yet, they may occasionally eat insects. They will do this when food sources are low, but also when teaching goslings to forage.
That’s because plant sources are low on protein. The goslings need protein to grow well. Insects are rich in protein and will ensure the goslings get a good supply to help them grow and develop as best a they can.
Some insects that geese eat are:
A lot of insects that geese consume are likely the result of accidental eating as they forage amongst plants. Usually, geese are much more interested in the vegetation rather than actively seeking out insects.
Insects are pretty easy for geese to catch as they are often found in large numbers around the fresh water areas where the geese live.
6. Small fish
Fish is not a large part of a goose’s diet but they will occasionally eat them. Again this is normal when other food sources are sparse.
Fish are quick and quite difficult for geese to catch. They will often just stick to smaller fish that they can snap up or catch through filter feeding.
So rest assured that geese don’t actively go seeking to eat fish from ponds. Yet they may do if they are starving and presented with the opportunity. Often this will be when they are submerging their head to eat aquatic plants.
Other animals that geese eat are crustaceans and shellfish. Yet again these will make up a very small part of their diet.
The most common crustacean for geese to eat is freshwater snails. Again they will find them while eating plants in the water. Snails are a good source of protein but also soft and juicy for the geese to eat.
Geese can also crack the shells of some shellfish and eat any meat inside. This is not typical of an adult goose and is behavior more associated with juvenile geese who require protein in their diets.
Can Geese Eat Bread?
Geese can eat bread however it is not a part of their natural diet. A small amount of bread will not harm a goose, however filling up on it regularly will. That’s because bread is nutritionally poor for geese. It will fill them up without providing any nutrients for them.
If there are geese at a park who are continuously being fed bread all day by visitors then this is going to lead to problems for their health.
If young geese eat too much bread it can cause them to develop and physical deformity known as angel wing. This results in the bird developing a crooked wing which makes them unable to fly. Geese which can’t fly are unable to migrate or flee from predators easily.
The best thing to do for your local wild geese is not to feed them and to let them find their own natural food sources.
What do baby geese eat?
Baby birds often have the luxury of being fed by their parents for the first few weeks of their life. Yet wild baby geese don’t get to do this. Baby geese are born with specialized beaks so they are ready to forage around 1-2 days after they hatch.
The baby geese follow their parents whilst foraging and will mostly eat what the adults eat. In addition to grasses and grains, baby geese will try to eat a lot more protein than adults.
Geese lay their eggs early in the year so the goslings are born at a time when insects are available in high numbers.
This protein helps them to grow rapidly and provides nutrients to stay healthy. Goslings get most of this protein from eating small insects and aquatic invertebrates.
Gosling also needs a fresh water source to help them digest their food easily.
What do geese eat in winter?
Short-length grass is much harder for geese to find in winter. It’s not that it’s not available but usually, it’s frozen on the ground or covered in snow.
In the winter months, geese change their diet to one which is heavily grain-based. This is easy to find in large fields which have been harvested. These grains help to provide lots of carbohydrates which fatten them up and provide energy for migration.
In winter geese often eat a lot of sedges, which is a grass-like plant that grows close to water sources. Sedge is much easier for the geese to find as moving water prevents the plants from being covered by snow.
Geese are mainly herbivores and large parts of their diet are made up of grasses, plants, vegetation, and grains. They will mostly be attracted to areas that have a lot of these foods available.
Other food sources that geese will eat are fruits, insects, small fish, crustaceans, and aquatic invertebrates. These provide nutrients and proteins for young goslings but are also a food source for adult geese when supplies are scarce.
Often geese will accidentally eat insects and small pond animals when they are foraging to eat the vegetation.
A goose’s diet plays a large part in its survival. Its essential wild geese stick to their natural diet as much as possible. Otherwise, they may develop nutritional deficiencies which can be fatal for them.