Geese do not have teeth like other animals. This is because birds can not produce enamel which is the hard protective outer coating that covers real teeth in humans and mammals. Teeth. Birds have curved beaks and a hearty digestive tract that aids them in grinding and processing food. The beaks and tongues of some birds have serrated cartilages that help them in biting food and tearing their prey.
It is believed that millions of years ago, birds had teeth, and mutation occurred over time and rendered them toothless. Modern birds evolved from dinosaurs that had teeth and gradually lost them as they got older. They instead developed a small beak. Over time the process happened earlier until eventually, they emerged from their eggs with a fully formed beak.
Beaks of geese have teeth-like features called tomia. Tomia is made up of cartilage and is part of the tongue and beak instead of them being separated in the body. They form and function much like teeth in other animals. They are not as tough and durable as real teeth, but they perform the same tasks as teeth in other animals.
Geese mostly feed on grasses, grains, roots, and other low-growing vegetation. They, therefore, need to be able to grip it, tear it up, or uproot it so they can eat it. This can be very hard with a smooth beak and also very inefficient to the bird. The cartilages lining the geese’s tongue allow them to grip the food much better and also help in tearing up the food for easy swallowing. The tomia help with the tearing of small insects and rodents for easy swallowing too. The spiky ridges along the tongue help the geese to easily hold a struggling insect so it doesn’t go away.
Benefits of the tomia
The tomia’s sole purpose is to aid in feeding the geese. Geese feed in most cases if not all on grasses, grains, roots, leaves, and stems; therefore, the teeth are vital in aiding to rip vegetation from the ground. They clamp down their beak on grass and shake their head sharp to tear on it.
Tomia ranges from rounded to slightly sharp in different birds, depending on their diet. Seed-eating birds, for instance, contain ridges in their tomia which helps the birds to slice through a seed’s outer hull. Mostly, the falcons contain a sharp projection along the upper mandible and a notch on the lower mandible to help to sever their preys’ bones or to rip insects apart.
The tomium in geese is hard and spiky and looks and functions the same way as a row of teeth. It is usually a growth from the geese’s beak itself. The geese tomium is very sharp and hard. It is designed for ripping through grass and aquatic vegetation and small animals that geese prey on. Geese can not chew food; therefore, they need to rip it into small pieces before they swallow it.
The serrated tongue also helps the geese to hold onto small prey like insects and rodents. The spikes in the tomia prevent the insects from escaping.
Geese are territorial birds and do not like anyone or anything in their space, especially during their breeding season when they have nests full of eggs or goslings. Geese bite only when they feel threatened and can actually draw blood when they bite. They might fly or flutter after people that they perceive as a threat.
Geese are used to humans as they have integrated their habitats, especially in urban environments. Geese have eventually lost their fear of humans, and they don’t see human beings as dangerous enough not to attack them.
Goose bites don’t hurt unless they become too frenzied with repeated nips. Their teeth do not cut as they are not true teeth, but they cause some damage if they bite. Geese bite should not be underestimated as the tomia aren’t soft or pulpy but instead its bone-hard.
How to know when a goose is about to attack
An impending goose attack starts when the goose stares at you. If the goose just flicks their eyes in your direction, you are good to go, but when their attention is fixed on you, then you should worry a bit. A direct stare from a goose means that they perceive you as a threat to them.
Secondly, when a goose stretches or cranes its neck, it is usually a warning for you to back off. Warning signs also include honking or hissing of geese.
The last sign before the attack of a goose is when it pumps its head up and down in a vertical motion. This is their conflict behavior, and they are usually about to attack with their beaks.
To avoid geese attack, you should:
- Avoid sudden movements: Walk backward slowly when you spot a goose. Do not turn around and run, as this will only trigger the goose to chase you. Any signs of fear, stress, or anger can trigger their instincts and make them launch into an attack.
- Do not try to intimidate a goose: Behaviors that normally scare off an animal are a bad idea when dealing with geese. Such behaviors include yelling at them, waving your arms, and making loud noises. Geese don’t get intimidated easily and trying that will probably provoke an attack.
- Do not feed the geese: Geese become more aggressive around food, so if you are holding food, you will definitely be their target. Do not by any means try feeding the geese as they will launch their attack on you.
- Do not let kids chase the geese: Children might want to touch or even catch a goose of which is quite understandable. Do not allow them to get close to a goose as it will attack them. Kids are loud, rough with animals, and move very fast. Trying to play with the geese will provoke them to attack the children.
- Remain calm in case of an attack: Geese attacks are not very severe as they do not have true teeth. The tomium is not very hard such that it can cause great damage to the human fresh. The worst that can happen is having some scrapes and cuts. When attacked by geese, do not panic and don’t run. Just cover your face and eyes and keep backing away slowly until the goose sees you no longer a threat to it.
Are geese friendly?
Surprisingly, geese can be very friendly and affectionate despite their aggressive nature. Domesticated geese such as African browns, pilgrims, and American buffs bond strongly with the people who raise them. They are also loyal birds, especially to their breeders and hatcheries. Guard geese, for instance, are very loyal to their owners and people with who they are familiar.
To befriend a goose, it’s advisable to buy them as goslings or, better even, hatch them yourself. Learn to communicate with the geese from their early stage of development. Geese require intensive care when breeding and feeding. Create a conducive environment for their breeding. For example, creating a pool for them to swim in since they are waterfowl birds.
While interacting with geese, you need to watch out for warning signs of hostility or aggression from the geese. If your geese are behaving aggressively or nervously around you, try talking to them to assure them that you mean no harm to them.
LEARN MORE ABOUT GEESE
A goose is a bird species belonging to the taxonomic family Anatidae, which comprises water birds like geese, ducks, and swans. The term geese are a unisex term referring to both the male and female geese. When the term goose is paired with the word ‘gander,’ it specifically refers to a female goose.
Geese reproduce by copulating, nesting, and incubating. The female geese lay eggs and sit on them. A clutch is made up of four to seven eggs. Incubation begins when all eggs are laid so they can hatch on the same day. The male geese stay close to the female geese to protect it and the eggs and strike anyone or anything that tries attacking or anything that poses as a threat to them. The geese scream and hiss at humans or other animals who get too close to their nests and goslings. The eggs take between 25 to 30 days to hatch. A young goose is called a gosling, whether male or female.
Most geese species live around freshwater in habitats such as lakes, ponds, streams, marshes, and wetlands. Other species inhabit farms, public parks, and urban areas. Geese mostly sleep right on the water as they are safe from hawks and eagles since they also sleep at night. Any predator swimming after the birds sends vibrations through the water, thus waking them up. There are at least twenty-five species of geese in the geese family, excluding exotic species and domesticated varieties. Most common geese species include
- Andean Goose: This neotropical bird is mostly found in South America in the Andes mountains. The Andean goose is 2.30-2.62 feet long and weighs between 6.02 to 8.02 pounds. They feed on grass, sedges, and herbs.
- Ashy-headed Goose: This type of geese is mostly found in southern Chile and southern Argentina. Their natural home is the southern beech forest on high ground, and in winter, they inhabit the natural meadows and rough pasture. The ashy-headed goose is 1.64-1.97 feet tall and weighs 3.57-5.00 pounds. The female Ashy-headed goose is much lighter than the male one. They feed on land and eat leaves, stems, and seed heads of grass and sedges.
- Bar-headed Goose: This bird is Indomalayan, Palearctic, and Nearctic, scattered from eastern Europe to Asia in areas of high altitudes like Mongolia and China. These geese breed on wetlands like marshes and lakeshores near rocky outcrops in highland plateaux. In winter, they inhabit lowland swamps, lakes, and rivers. The bar-headed goose is 2.34-2.49 feet tall with a wingspan of 4.59-5.25 feet. They weigh between 4.41-6.61 pounds.
The bar-headed geese mostly graze on land, but also they do foraging in water.
The scientific name of this goose is Branta leucopsis. It is found mainly in eastern Europe and Asia. In winters, they move to northern Britain and along the North Sea coasts. The barnacle geese feed on crags and rocky outcrops in the arctic tundra near water bodies and rivers. These geese are 1.90- 2.33 feet tall with a wingspan of 4.33 – 4.76 feet. They weigh approximately between 2.87 – 4.85 pounds. The barnacle geese feed on pasture, marshes, and temporary meadows.
- Bean Goose: This variety of geese is widely distributed in Europe and Asia. Their habitat is the high arctic or taiga on lakes, bogs, swamps, wet meadows, and sluggish rivers. In winter, they live on marshes and agricultural land. These geese are 2.17- 2.92 feet tall with a wingspan of 4.59- 5.71 feet. Their weight ranges between 4.89 – 8.95 pounds. The bean geese mostly feed on herbs, berries, grasses, and sedges, while they feed on beans and potatoes during winter.
- Canada Goose: The Canada goose, also known as Branta canadensis, is widely distributed in North America. Their habitat is usually near water and varies from open to woods and semi-desert to tundra. The Canada goose has an average height between 1.80 – 3.60 feet and a wingspan of 4.00 – 6.00 feet. Their weight ranges between 2.88 – 14.38 pounds. The Canadian geese mostly graze on the land. They also feed in water by submerging their head and neck. When breeding, they consume grasses, mosses, lichens, and aquatic plants and during the winter season, they feed on marine algae, seaweed, and other aquatic plants.
- Egyptian Goose: The Egyptian goose is an afro tropical and Palearctic bird found mostly in Africa. They are widely distributed from the south and east Mauritania and the way to Sudan. They are found in almost all African countries south of Sudan. European countries like Britain, France, Germany, Netherlands, and Belgium also have this bird. They inhabit wetlands like dams, rivers, lakes, estuaries, and offshore islands.
These birds’ height ranges from 2.07 – 2.40 feet and a wingspan of 4.39 – 5.05 feet. They weigh between 3.31 – 5.18 pounds. The Egyptian geese mainly graze on land but also do some dabbling. They feed mostly on grass and seeds, stems and leaves of plants. They also feed on vegetables, grains, shoots, and potatoes.
- Swan Goose: The swan goose is an Indomalayan, Palearctic goose widely distributed in central Asia from south-central Siberia to Mongolia and northern China. They inhabit close to the water in summers and on the dry steppes away from water in winter. The swan goose has a height of 2.62 -3.08 feet and a wingspan of 5.41 – 6.07 feet. Swan goose weight ranges between 6.28 to 7.72 pounds. The geese feed by grazing on land by eating grasses and sedges.
- Upland Goose: The scientific name for the upland goose is the Chloephaga picta. It is widely distributed in South America. This type of goose mainly breeds on dry pastures, temporally meadows as well as the glassy islands and coastal meadows in the Falklands. The upland goose has a length averaging between 1.97 – 2.36 feet and a wingspan of between 5.41 to 6.07 feet. These geese weigh between 5.45 to 7.85 pounds. They feed mainly by grazing on land. The geese eat leaves, stems, seed heads of grasses, and sedges.
- Red-breasted Goose: The red-breasted goose is a Palearctic goose widely distributed from Greenland to western Europe. They inhabit the tundra near water and on grassy river banks. In winter, they are found on lakes and reservoirs on low temporary meadows and marshes. These geese are between 1.74 to 1.84 feet tall and have a wingspan of 3.81 to 4.43 feet. Their weight is between 2.33 to 3.58 pounds. The red-breasted geese mainly eat grasses, sedges, and leaves, as well as the green parts of aquatic plants. During the winter, they also eat grain, tubers, and sprouting cereals.
Geese are beautiful birds, but it’s best to watch them from a distance to avoid any provocations. If you can see their ‘teeth,’ then you are most likely too close and should consider keeping your distance as they are aggressive birds. Their teeth might seem harmless, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.