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Goose
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Scientific classification
Kingdom: animalia
Phylum: chordata
Order: anseriformes
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.

Etymology Edit

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-, thence Sanskrit hamsa (feminine hamsii), Persian Ghaz, Latin anser, Greek khén etc.

In the Germanic languages, the root word led to Old English gōs with the plural gēs, 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 term goose applies to the birds in general, and to a female in particular. The word gander (Old English gandra) is used for a male in particular. Young birds before fledging are called goslings. A group of geese on the ground is called a gaggle; when flying in formation is called a wedge or a skein (see also list of collective nouns for birds).

True geese Edit

The following are the living genera of true geese:

  • Anser - Grey Geese, including the domesticated goose and the Swan Goose
  • Chen - White Geese (often included in Anser)
  • Branta - Black Geese, such as the Canada goose

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

  • Cereopsis - Cape Barren Goose
  • Cnemiornis - New Zealand Geese (prehistoric)

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.

Geese are monogamous, living in permanent pairs throughout the year; however, unlike most other permanently monogamous animals, they are territorial only during the short nesting season. Paired geese are more dominant and feed more, two factors which result in more young being produced.

Other birds called "geese" Edit

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

  • Orinoco Goose, Neochen jubata
  • Egyptian Goose, Alopochen aegyptiacus
  • The South American sheldgeese, genus Chloephaga
  • The prehistoric Madagascar Sheldgoose, Centrornis majori, the "Woodard"

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.

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