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Ducks vs. Geese: 5 Key Differences Between These Birds!

Published: February 16, 2022

© JonVallejoPhotography/Shutterstock.com

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While we can all recognize ducks and geese, there are many differences between the two birds that you might not have thought of. Although both belong to the same waterfowl family known as anatidae , the two birds live very different lives, especially depending on their respective species and age.

In this article, we'll cover some of the key differences between ducks and geese, along with some tips to help you tell them apart if you're not sure. We'll also dig into the details of these birds and their eating and mating habits. Let's get started now!

comparing ducks and geese

duck vs goose
Compared to ducks, geese are much larger in length and weight, and they also have longer necks.

© AZ-Animals.com

Duck Goose
species Duck family Duck family
size 15-25 inches; 2-5 lbs 30-50 inches; 15-20 lbs
appearance Compact body and neck; plumage usually more colorful; beak wider and longer than goose Huge body and very long neck; feathers of a single color and pattern; bill shorter and more pointed than that of a duck
diet omnivorous, including grass and small fish Herbivores, including algae and plant matter found on land
life 3-8 years old 8-12 years old

The main difference between duck and goose

duck vs goose
Compared with geese, ducks have more brightly colored plumage, especially drakes.

©Harry Collins Photography/Shutterstock.com

There are a number of key differences between ducks and geese that can help you tell them apart. Compared to ducks, geese are much larger in length and weight, and they also have longer necks. Compared with geese, ducks have more brightly colored plumage, especially drakes. Finally, ducks and geese have different diets and lifespans, since geese live longer and are herbivores, while ducks have a shorter overall lifespan and eat omnivores.

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Let us now discuss all these details in more detail.

Ducks vs. Geese: Size and Weight

The main difference between ducks and geese is their different size and weight. Geese are much larger than ducks, and their necks are graceful and slender compared to the average length of a duck's neck.

Ducks weigh an average of 2-5 pounds, depending on the species, while geese weigh twice that. Ducks are usually between 15 and 20 inches long, while geese can reach 30 to 50 inches, depending on the species. This is a huge size difference, and you can easily tell this when you look at a duck and a goose side by side.

duck vs goose
Ducks weigh an average of 2-5 pounds, depending on the species, while geese weigh twice that.

© iStock.com/leekris

Duck and Goose: Appearance

Another difference between ducks and geese can be found in their appearance. In addition to the overall size difference, ducks tend to have more brightly colored plumage compared to geese. While it always depends on the specific breed, most ducks, especially males, have brightly colored plumage and intricate patterns. Goose tends to be more subdued in color and pattern.

Ducks also have wider and longer beaks compared to geese, possibly due to differences in their diets. The beaks of geese are similarly strong, but they are usually much shorter compared to the bills of ducks.

duck vs goose
Ducks have wider and longer beaks compared to geese, which may be due to differences in their diets.

© iStock.com/MikeLane45

Ducks and Geese: Food and Drink

Although it depends on the specific breed of duck or goose, these birds tend to have different diets. While ducks are known for their omnivorous diets, geese are primarily herbivores. Geese prefer to eat vegetation in and out of the water, while ducks eat a wide variety of fish and crustaceans, depending on their species and local environment.

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Ducks and Geese: Lifespan

Another major difference between ducks and geese is their lifespan. Overall, geese live longer than ducks, averaging 8 to 12 years compared to 3 to 8 years for ducks. This is based on statistics from mallards and geese, as captive waterfowl tend to live longer.

The reason ducks may have a much shorter lifespan than geese is that they are smaller and less aggressive. Many ducklings do not survive a full year due to predation and inability to defend themselves. Overall, geese tend to be more aggressive than ducks and are fierce protectors of their young.

duck vs goose
Overall, geese live longer than ducks, averaging 8 to 12 years compared to 3 to 8 years for ducks.

©Bildagentur Zonar GmbH/Shutterstock.com

Ducks vs. Geese: Mating and Breeding Habits

A final difference between ducks and geese is their mating and breeding habits. While both birds are considered monogamous for the most part, that definition is loosely based on how often they breed year-to-year. Now let's talk about this in more detail.

Geese, for example, are largely considered to be completely monogamous, committing to a mate throughout their lifespan. Ducks differ from geese in that they remain monogamous with a mate during a single breeding season and seek out a new mate to breed in the next year.

Many studies have shown that this monogamy is one of the reasons geese are more aggressive than ducks during mating season. The male goose takes care of the young goslings equally and does not give everything to the mother goose. That's a surprising change of pace compared to almost any other animal in the animal kingdom, especially birds.

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featured image

duck vs goose

© JonVallejoPhotography/Shutterstock.com


about the author

august croft


I am a non-binary freelance writer working full time in Oregon. A graduate of Southern Oregon University with a BA in Theater and a major in Creative Writing, I have an interest in a variety of topics, especially the history of the Pacific Northwest. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping on the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my family's kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast-iron skillet.

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