Geese are wonderful companions. They are smart, curious and friendly. They recognize the sound of a familiar car and will rush to the driveway to say “hi”. They will follow thier human friends anywhere in the yard, nibbling at grass and talking among themselves.
The key to understanding goose behavior is that geese are living dinosaurs. Birds are among the most successful and oldest vertebrates on earth, and according to recent speculation, the dinosaurs which escaped the deadly extinction event millions of years ago. A species doesn’t last long if it can’t defend itself.
Geese have a strong flocking instinct and one or more of a group of geese is constantly on the look-out for threats. If a threat is spotted, the instinct to fight– or to fly -kicks in. Geese have wonderful memories and recognize what, or who, is and isn’t part of the flock. Our geese were hand-raised as day-old goslings in the house through 6 weeks of age. During this time, talked to them, handled them, changed food and litter, gave baths and socialized. The geese imprinted on us, which means we are recognized as “flock members” and not percieved as threats. People who are outside of this immediate flock ARE threats until proven otherwise. Over time, the geese accept new people and animals are non-threats.
Brooding females and goslings are quite vulnerable, so during breeding season males can be very aggressive. Here at about 43N latitude breeding season and the attitudes which go along with it lasts from about mid-February until about July. Agression is expressed by mild defensive posture–the head of the goose lifts up- beak toward sky, to head lowered and hissing. If you are close, geese will charge, and attempt to latch on with thier beaks. If successful, they will pull thier wings forward with great force and beat at the target with a bone in the wing. This can leave very large bruises.
So geese, the endearing dinos that they are, will go after- beak first with wings flapping– and ask questions later, unless you’re their flock.
Geese aren’t mean- just pragmatic.