Canada Geese are complex creatures. It is hard to know exactly what they feel at any given time. However, it seems clear that they do form strong bonds with their mates and that the death of a mate can have a significant impact on their behavior.
Canada geese mate for life. So, it is not uncommon for these birds to grieve the loss of a mated pair. In some cases, the surviving bird appears to go through a period of mourning, spending less time with other geese and even withdrawing from social interaction altogether.
However, it has also been observed that geese do not mourn as humans do. For example, if a mate of a Canada goose dies, the surviving female or male goose will often quickly find a new partner, sometimes within the same breeding or nesting season.
How Long Do Geese Grieve?
Canada Geese have been observed to mourn for their deceased mates for up to two years. Unlike human beings, the length of the mourning period depends on the age and mating status of the surviving goose. If a younger goose loses its mate, it will usually select another one immediately.
However, older birds that have bonded or mated with their partners are known to grieve for extended periods of time. In some cases, they may even remain single for the rest of their lives.
How Do You Know if a Goose Is Grieving?
When tragedy struck, a goose would go through the mourning process where it would refuse to eat, lose weight, bob heads, and separate from its flock. The goose may be honking plaintively or crying aloud during this time. Its neck and head may droop and appear listless and depressed.
If you see a goose exhibiting these behaviors, it is likely grieving the loss of its mate. These waterfowl species typically mate for life, so the death of a partner can be devastating.
If you have a goose that has lost its partner, give it time to grieve. With time, most birds will eventually find another mate and return to their flock.
Do Geese Grieve the Loss of Goslings?
Geese are social creatures living in pairs or large groups and have strong bonds with their mates and offspring. Females start communicating with their young even if they are still in their eggs in the nests.
When a gosling dies, the parents will search for it frantically, calling out in distress. These animals will also refuse to leave the area where the young died or were killed and may even stop eating.
This behavior is similar to what is seen in other animals when they lose a loved one and suggests that these waterfowl mourn the loss of their young.
Do Geese Get Lonely?
It may not be readily apparent in the goose’s body language, it’s safe to assume that they form close bonds with the members of their flock and may feel lonely when separated.
In the wild, geese typically mate for life and live in flocks, so loneliness is likely not something they experience often.
However, captive waterfowl may get lonely if they are the only goose in their enclosure or if they don’t have any other bird companions.
Interestingly, when humans spot a gander alone near the pond, they immediately assume that it is lonely. Most of the time, they’re wrong. The bird might be standing nearby to protect its nest while the other pair incubates their eggs.
Do Geese Shed Tears?
Yes, they certainly do but not often. While the tears of a bird may not look exactly like our own, they serve the same purpose.
Birds cry in order to clean and lubricate their eyes and to release any built-up emotion or stress.
Do Wild Geese Bury Their Dead?
There are no documented cases of wild geese burying their dead. However, it has been observed that the other geese in the group would gather around the body and honk mournfully when a goose died. They would gently nudge the body with their beaks as if trying to revive it.
In a farm setting, it is often suggested to allow the geese to know for themselves that a family member has died or killed instead of taking the dead body away.
Otherwise, the surviving members would be hoping that the dead goose was separated from the flock and not dead. They would search for the lost goose while honking loudly, hoping that the missing member hears them.
The Bottom Line on Canada Geese Mourning the Loss of a Mate or Gosling
There is no doubt that these birds mourn. Geese mate for life and mated pairs form eternal bonds. They have been observed to mourn the loss of a life-long mate or newly hatched goslings.
It is still unknown whether geese experience genuine grief, but the mourning rituals observed in these birds provide insight into the emotional lives of animals.
FAQs on Mourning in Geese and Other Animals
Can a Wild Goose With a Broken Wing Still Fly?
No, it would be difficult for one goose with a broken wing to fly. The bird’s bones and feathers are interlocked to allow them to work together to create lift. When one of those elements is damaged, it can interfere with the bird’s ability to generate lift and stay airborne.
In addition, a wild goose’s wing is also its primary means of propulsion. So, if a wild goose’s wing is injured, it will not only have difficulty taking off but also have trouble staying in the air and flying efficiently.
If you noticed an injured wild goose on your property, leave the animal alone on the grass but feed it with its usual food and offer water.
If the wing injury is not severe, there is a good chance that it will heal up. You can also call your local wildlife services to check on the injured bird if you’re concerned about the welfare of the animal.
Can Geese Get Injured or Sick While Flying?
Yes, a Canada goose can get injured or sick while flying during fall migration. When this happens, one mate and another goose will accompany the ill or wounded goose day and night until it fully recovers.
The most common injuries geese can sustain while flying is broken wings and legs. These injuries usually occur when the goose hits something like a tree or power line while in flight in the winter or in the spring. Geese also sometimes get injured by predators, such as hawks or eagles.
Sickness is not as common among flying geese, but it can happen. They can become ill from exposure to cold temperatures or eating contaminated food. Flying geese are also susceptible to avian influenza, a virus that primarily affects birds.
Do Pets and Other Wild Animals Mourn?
May animals including cats, dogs, ducks, and elephants have been observed to mourn the loss of their companions and sometimes, their owners.
- Cats have been observed to mourn the loss of a companion or owner. Their behaviors change and they become more restless.
- Dogs become sad when their owners pass away.
- Elephants have been documents to shed tears and perform rituals such as burying their dead mate or children. They feel grief when a human or other elephants pass away.
- Ducks mourn the loss of ducklings.