Goose

Goose

[goos]
Van Schaick, Goose, 1736-89, American Revolutionary soldier, b. Albany, N.Y. He fought in the French and Indian War, becoming (1760) lieutenant colonel of a New York regiment. As a colonel in the Revolution, he led (1779) a successful expedition against the Onondaga. Gen. James Clinton placed him in command of forces completing the Sullivan-Clinton campaign against the Native Americans in the Mohawk valley. He was brevetted brigadier general in 1783.
goose, common name for large wild and domesticated swimming birds related to the duck and the swan. Strictly speaking, the term goose is applied to the female and gander to the male. In North America the wild (or Canada) goose, Branta canadensis, is known by its honking call and by the migrating V-shaped flocks in spring and fall. Other wild geese are the brant (any species of the genus Branta, particularly B. bernicla) and the blue, snow, and white-fronted (or laughing) geese. Among the domestic geese are the popular Toulouse (or gray) goose (descended from the graylag, Anser anser, of Europe), the African goose, the Embden goose, and the Asian breeds (developed from the wild Chinese goose). Geese were raised in ancient times by the Romans and other Europeans and were sacred in Egypt 4,000 years ago. Forcible feeding is used to fatten geese and to enlarge the liver for use in making pâté de foie gras. Geese are classifed in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Anseriformes, family Anatidae.

Most common Eurasian representative (Anser anser) of the so-called gray goose, and ancestor of all Occidental domestic geese. It nests in temperate regions and winters from Britain to North Africa, India, and China. It is pale gray with pink legs; the bill is pink in the eastern race and orange in the western race.

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Any of various large, heavy-bodied waterfowl (family Anatidae), especially those of the genera Anser (so-called gray geese) and Branta (so-called black geese), which are found only in the Northern Hemisphere. Intermediate in size and build between ducks and swans, geese are less fully aquatic than either, and their legs are farther forward, allowing them to walk readily. Geese have a specially modified bill for grasping sedges and grasses, their main diet. The sexes are alike in coloration; males (called ganders) are usually larger than females. Both sexes utter loud honking or gabbling cries while in flight or when danger appears. Geese pair for life. Flocks traveling in V-formations migrate between their northern breeding grounds and southern wintering grounds. Seealso barnacle goose; Canada goose; greylag; nene.

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Species (Branta leucopsis) of waterbird that resembles a small Canada goose, with dark back, white face, and black neck and bib. It winters in the northern British Isles and on the coasts of Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands. In the Middle Ages, it was thought to hatch from barnacles, and thus was considered “fish” and could be eaten on Fridays.

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Fictitious old woman, reputedly the source of the body of traditional children's songs and verses known as nursery rhymes. Often pictured as a beak-nosed, sharp-chinned old woman riding on the back of a flying gander, she was first associated with nursery rhymes in Mother Goose's Melody (1781), published by the successors of John Newbery. The name apparently derived from the h1 of Charles Perrault's collection of fairy tales Ma Mère l'oye (1697; “My Mother Goose”). The persistent rumour that Mother Goose was an actual Boston woman is false.

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Goose (plural: geese) is the English name for a considerable number of birds, belonging to the family Anatidae. This family also includes swans, most of which are larger than geese, and ducks, which are smaller.

This article deals with the true geese in the subfamily Anserinae, tribe Anserini.

A number of other waterbirds, mainly related to the shelducks, have "goose" as part of their name.

Description

True geese are medium to large birds, always (with the exception of the Nēnē) associated to a greater or lesser extent with water. Most species in Europe, Asia, and North America are strongly migratory as wild birds, breeding in the far north and wintering much farther south. However, escapes and introductions have led to resident feral populations of several species.

Geese have been domesticated for thousands of years. In the West, farmyard geese are descended from the Greylag, but in Asia the Swan Goose has been farmed for at least as long.

All geese eat a vegetarian diet, and can become pests when flocks feed on arable crops or inhabit ponds or grassy areas in urban environments. They also take invertebrates if the opportunity presents itself; domestic geese will try out most novel food items for edibility.

Geese usually mate for life, though a small number will "divorce" and remate. They tend to lay a smaller number of eggs than ducks but both parents protect the nest and young, which usually results in a higher survival rate for the young geese.

Not all couples are heterosexual, as both females and males will form long-term same-sex couples with greater or lesser frequency depending on species. Of the homosexual couples, a significant proportion are non-breeding despite having an active sexual life.

Etymology

Goose in its origins is one of the oldest words of the Indo-European languages (Crystal), the modern names deriving from the proto-Indo-European root, ghans, hence Sanskrit hamsa (feminine hamsii), Latin anser, Greek khén etc.

In the Germanic languages, the root word led to Old English gos with the plural gés, German Gans and Old Norse gas. Other modern derivatives are Russian gus and Old Irish géiss; the family name of the cleric Jan Hus is derived from the Czech derivative husa.

The male goose is called a gander (Anglo-Saxon gandra) and the female is the goose (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)); young birds before fledging are known as goslings. A group of geese on the ground is called a gaggle; when flying in formation, it is called a wedge or a skein (see also list of collective nouns for birds).

True geese

The following are the living genera of true geese:

The following two genera are only tentatively placed in the Anserinae; they may belong to the shelducks or form a subfamily on their own:

Either these or - more probably - the goose-like Coscoroba Swan is the closest living relative of the true geese.

Fossils of true geese are hard to assign to genus; all that can be said is that their fossil record, particularly in North America, is dense and comprehensively documents a lot of the different species of true geese that have been around since about 10 million years ago in the Miocene. The aptly-named Anser atavus ("Great-great-great-grandfather goose") from some 12 million years ago had even more plesiomorphies in common with swans. In addition, there are some goose-like birds known from subfossil remains found on the Hawaiian Islands. See Anserinae for more.

Other birds called "geese"

There are a number of mainly southern hemisphere birds called "geese", most of which belong to the shelduck subfamily Tadorninae. These are:

The Blue-winged Goose, Cyanochen cyanopterus belongs either to these, or to lineage closer to ducks.

The Spur-winged Goose, Plectropterus gambensis, is most closely related to the shelducks, but distinct enough to warrant its own subfamily, the Plectropterinae.

The three species of small waterfowl in the genus Nettapus are named "pygmy geese", e.g. the Cotton Pygmy Goose (N. javanica). They seem to represent an ancient lineage like the Cape Barren Goose and the Spur-winged Goose.

A genus of prehistorically extinct seaducks, Chendytes, is sometimes called "diving-geese" due to their large size.

The unusual Magpie-goose is in a family of its own, the Anseranatidae.

The Northern Gannet, a seabird, is also known as the "Solan Goose" although it is a bird unrelated to the true geese, or any other Anseriformes for that matter.

See also

References

  • (1999): Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-19239-8
  • (1992): Family Anatidae (Ducks, Geese and Swans). In: : Handbook of Birds of the World (Volume 1: Ostrich to Ducks): 536-629, plates 40-50. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-10-5
  • (1998): The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (Paperback) ISBN 0-521-55967-7
  • (1991): The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Wings Books, New York. Reprint of 1980 edition. ISBN 0-517-03288-0

External links

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