A female goose is called a goose, while a male goose is referred to as a gander. Baby geese, regardless of their gender, are called goslings.
A female goose is called a goose. A male goose is called a gander. Baby geese are called goslings.
Answered from Kay
Geese are common birds found throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. While most people are familiar with these birds, some common questions come up regarding the terminology used to describe male and female geese. This FAQ guide will provide detailed answers to help explain exactly what a female goose is called.
Table of Contents
- General Term for an Adult Female Goose
- What is a Mother Goose?
- What is Meant by a Laying Goose?
- Are There Specific Terms for Older Female Geese?
- Do Female Geese Have Special Names When Paired?
- What are Some Other Common Nicknames for Female Geese?
- How Can You Tell a Male Goose from a Female Goose?
- At What Age do Female Geese Reach Maturity?
- What Species of Geese are Common as Pets or on Farms?
- What is the Origin of Referring to Adult Females Simply as “Geese”?
- How do the Terms for Female Geese Compare to Other Bird Species?
- Why is it Important to Understand Goose Terminology?
What is the general term for an adult female goose?
The most common everyday term used to refer to an adult female goose is simply “goose.” Unlike some animal species that have distinct names for males and females, geese are most often identified the same way regardless of sex once they reach adulthood.
So if you want to refer to a mature female goose in general conversation, “goose” is the standard unambiguous term. “Goose” can be used to label a female goose of any age past gosling stage when the sex can be accurately determined.
Using just “goose” is fine in most situations where the gender distinction does not need to be made. However, there are some cases where referring specifically to a female goose is helpful for clarity.
What is a Mother Goose?
A female goose that has bred and given birth to young goslings will sometimes be referred to as a “mother goose.” This signifies her status as a parent raising babies.
Mother geese are known for being particularly protective of their goslings. They will often hiss, chase, or even attack animals or humans that get too close to their young. So the “mother goose” label identifies the extra defensiveness exhibited by breeding females guarding their offspring.
A female goose may be called a mother goose while she has goslings in her care. Once her babies are grown, she would typically again just be called a goose. Sometimes “mother goose” is more loosely used to refer to any mature female goose, with the implication that she has mothering instincts. But it most precisely applies to a female goose actively tending to her babies.
What is meant by a laying goose?
A sexually mature adult female goose capable of reproducing is often referred to as a “laying goose” when the focus is on her egg laying abilities.
These geese have reached the stage in life where they ovulate and lay eggs each breeding season. A laying goose will generally produce an average of 5-10 eggs in a clutch each year, though this can vary by species.
Being described as a laying goose signifies that the female is of breeding age and produces eggs, even if those eggs are not fertilized or incubated. It simply indicates she is past gosling stage and mature enough to lay eggs around the spring breeding season.
Are there specific terms for older female geese?
There are a couple different terms that may be used to denote an older female goose that is past her prime breeding years:
- Old Goose – A goose reaching advanced age may simply be called an “old goose.” This is sometimes used to distinguish elderly geese from younger mature adults.
- Broody Goose – A female goose that continues trying to nest and lay eggs in old age, beyond her fertile years, is often referred to as a “broody goose.” The term “broody” suggests her maternal instincts are still active.
- Retired Goose – On farms and homesteads, a female goose that has stopped producing eggs may be considered a “retired” goose, analogous to a retiree no longer working.
So while there are not highly specific terms, “old goose” and related descriptive phrases are used informally to indicate an aged female goose's senior status.
Do female geese have special names when paired?
Male and female geese that mate for life are collectively referred to as goose pairs. Within those monogamous pair bonds, there are a few gender-specific names used:
- Goose – The female of a mated pair is still simply called a goose in most situations.
- Mother Goose – If a paired female is raising goslings, she may be termed the mother goose of that family group.
- Queen Goose – In some goose keeping circles, the female of a breeding pair is nicknamed the “queen.”
- Lady Goose – This is an informal way to denote a female goose, similar to referring to a woman as a lady.
So while still commonly just called geese, mated females may be granted honorary titles like queen or lady to recognize their partnership status. But these are not standardized names.
What are some other common nicknames for female geese?
Beyond the technical terms, female geese are sometimes known by a variety of nicknames, including:
- Gray Girl – For gray-colored geese, like Graylag geese or Greylag geese.
- Snow Girl – For white geese, like Chinese or Embden geese.
- Lake Lady – Since geese often live near ponds and lakes.
- Honker – For noisy geese; mimics their honking call.
- Nester – For a brooding, nesting female goose.
These sorts of informal, descriptive nicknames may be used by goose owners and enthusiasts when referring to their geese. The nicknames emphasize identifying features or personality traits of certain female birds.
How can you tell a male goose (gander) from a female goose?
Determining the sex of a goose is not always entirely straightforward. Here are some ways to tell males (ganders) and females (geese) apart:
- Size – Male geese are generally larger than females, with bigger heads and thicker necks.
- Feather Color – Males tend to have brighter, more distinct plumage than female geese.
- Voice – Male geese make a deeper, louder honking sound compared to females.
- Behavior – Male geese are often more bold, territorial and aggressive.
- Cloaca – The reproductive opening between underside tail feathers has subtle differences between the sexes.
- Laying Eggs – Obviously, only females lay eggs, so egg laying confirms the goose is female.
So while size, feather brightness, and voice can be clues, behavior and egg laying ability are the most definitive ways to confirm the gender of mature geese.
At what age do female geese reach maturity?
On average, female domestic geese reach full sexual maturity and start laying eggs at around one to three years of age. However, the precise maturity timeline depends on factors like breed, nutrition, season, and individual variation.
Here are some goose breeds and their common ages for females to begin laying eggs:
- Pilgrim and Chinese geese – 1 year old
- African and Embden geese – 2 years old
- Toulouse, Steinbacher and Buff geese – 2 to 3 years old
Wild female geese may take slightly longer, not reaching peak egg production until ages 3-5. Once a female goose is laying eggs, she is considered a sexually mature adult.
What species of geese are common as pets or on farms?
The following goose breeds are most often kept domestically for eggs, meat, guard duties, or as pets:
- Chinese – Small breed, frequently kept as pets.
- Embden – Large white geese, raised for both meat and eggs.
- African – High egg production and heat tolerance.
- Toulouse – Distinctive dewlap, medium-large meat breed.
- Pilgrim – Older heritage breed, decent layers.
- Sebastopol – Ornamental breed with curly feathers.
- Pomeranian – Popular breed due to their small stature.
- Buff – Color variations of the Embden goose.
Farm geese are commonly one of the heavy breeds like Embden or Toulouse. Pet geese are usually smaller breeds like Chinese, Pilgrim or Pomeranian. The most readily available domestically raised breeds will vary by region.
What is the origin of referring to adult females simply as “geese”?
Geese and many other bird species do not have distinct names differentiating males and females. It is believed this stems from the historic practice of harvesting young goslings for their down feathers before the genders were visibly apparent.
At the point when feathers were plucked for use in the down industry, the sex of goslings was not easily determined. So they were all simply referred to as “geese” in a generic sense. The convention stuck even as some males, called ganders, were kept to maturity for breeding stock.
This practical terminology during the down harvests led to the continued use of “goose” for both sexes into adulthood. Distinct terms like gander emerged over time but were never universally applied.
How do the terms for female geese compare to other bird species?
Many bird species use generic language not specific to each gender, while some have clear naming differences. For example:
- Chickens – Hens for females, roosters/cocks for males
- Ducks – Ducks for females, drakes for males
- Turkeys – Hens for females, toms/gobblers for males
- Swans – Pens for females, cobs for males
- Peafowl – Peahens for females, peacocks for males
So while chickens, ducks, turkeys, and swans all have distinct female names, geese share the same common nouns for both genders, with ganders for males rarely used in everyday discussion.
Why is it important to understand goose terminology?
Knowing the proper terms for male and female geese can be useful in a variety of situations:
- Clarity in Conversation – Using correct terms avoids confusion when referring to a specific goose.
- Proper Care – Identifying gender aids in providing suitable nutrition, housing, etc.
- Breeding Context – Terms like gander and laying goose are relevant when breeding geese.
- Sourcing Geese – Purchasing geese from breeders often involves specifying gender.
- Following Regulations – Some areas have ordinances restricting male goose numbers.
- Record Keeping – Accurately tracking goose growth, laying rates, etc.
So having a proper understanding of how to refer to female geese and their life stages makes it easier to communicate about geese effectively in any setting where gender is relevant. The terminology is simple but it is still important to learn and use the right goose names.