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Frequently Asked Questions
Behavioral Questions About Geese

FAQ Index

I know that geese mate for life but if something happens to one, will he (or she) eventually find another mate or stay single the rest of his (or her) life? If they do not mate again, will they ever be accepted into another group or spend their life by themselves?

As you correctly noted, Canada geese (and swans) do mate for life. Mated pairs not only raise and protect their young together, but also look out for one another over the course of their lives. One mate will stay by the other's side if injured or dying, even if the rest of the flock is moving on. They are extremely devoted to one another.

It is certainly possible that when one goose dies, the survivor will find a new partner. However, as with people, every goose is different. Whether or not a goose decides to pursue a new mate involves a number of factors, many of which we don't fully understand. Members of pair that have been together for many years are probably less likely to take a new mate than had the situation involved a younger pair -- but it is still up to the individual bird.

Canada geese are very social creatures, so the lone goose will always have a flock to be associated with when he or she chooses to socialize again. (Sometimes geese in mourning will stay by themselves.) It is possible that the goose will become a loner, but it is impossible to generalize. Again, it depends on the specific goose's "personality."

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There is a pond where I work, and I couldn't help noticing this one lonely goose hanging around. He appears to be healthy, what might be wrong, if anything?

Of course, it is very difficult to know for absolute certainty why this goose is alone.

There are three common explanations for your observation. The first two assume that the lone goose is healthy and can fly.

The first possibility only applies in the spring during nesting season. Many people report seeing a lone goose hanging around a particular area. Typically the bird is a gander (the male) standing guard with a well-concealed mate on a nest nearby -- he only appears to be alone.

The second possible explanation is that the goose you observed has lost his or her mate. Geese are known to mourn by staying by themselves for a while (see next question/answer below).

Possible explanation 3: He was injured (shot at?) shortly before arriving on the scene and his internal injuries brought him down.

Of course, it is entirely possible that this goose has just strayed from his flock for a while.

If this goose appears to be healthy (and appears to be finding food and eating), then there is nothing to worry about and no need to do anything.

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If one goose of a mated pair dies, does the mate mourn? A goose on our lake died yesterday and last night and all this morning, his mate has been swimming around the lake calling out in what sounds like despair. It is a loud sad short honk, and he/she just keeps circling the lake doing this.

Those who have spent time observing geese will tell you that they are, indeed, very emotional creatures. There is little doubt that geese deeply mourn not only the loss of their mates, but also the destruction of their eggs. The behavior you observed is most certainly what one would expect of a mourning goose. It is hard to say exactly how long they mourn; certainly, longer over the loss of a mate than for the loss of eggs. Geese in mourning will often stay by themselves for a while.

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