Intro to goose body language please


10 Years
Nov 8, 2009
I'm not having much luck finding a simple run down of what is an aggressive show in geese vs curiosity, fright, excitement etc. Does anyone have any links or feel like sharing personal experience with me? I've got 2 six week old toulouse geese that I am trying to decipher. Thanks!
As I see it, geese have several levels of fright:

Level 1: Apprehensive. They still want to investigate and they inch closer, but with their necks held somewhat low, necks quivering on and off.
Level 2: Uneasy. They stay put or back off a little, but the quivering intensifies and they might give a small hiss.
Level 3: Frightened. They close in, necks quivering, honking, hissing, rustling feathers, trying to bite.
Level 4: Attack mode. Like level four, but decisively attacking and biting, also using their wings and sometimes claws as weapons.
Level 5: Scared out of their wits. Screaming, running away from threat with wings outstretched. Goslings will try to find a parent to hide with. Threat to great or too sudden to fight.

I've never seen aggressive goslings; the ones I've seen tend to skip level 3 and 4 and go directly from 2 to 5.

When my goose is happy about something, like if he finds his favorite weed, he'll make a happy, throaty low sound like "hraff-hraff-hraff-hraff".

When he's excited about something, like going for a walk or having a (human) friend visit, he'll honk loudly, stand tall on his toes and flap his wings, sometimes making small jumps. Then he comes running or walking very quickly, mostly with his wings out and neck stretched forward (I'm guessing because of aerodynamics, haha), still honking.

When he meets his human friends, he'll greet them by honking loudly and stretcing his neck forward. They do the same, and they'll all gossip for a while.

If he's unhappy about something (like not going for a walk), he'll honk softly but incessantly while pacing back and forth.

If he's tired (or if he doesn't want to go home yet), he'll make little whining noises and walk away.

When he sees a bird or a plane in the sky, he'll stand still like a statue, watching with one eye.

This one is probably just my goose: When he wants in the house, he rattles the cat flap.
Goose Girl,

Thank you very much for that post. I am new to this goose thing and while I am loving it, I can't seem to learn enough.... fast enough.

Reading the body language of any animal can be very helpful.

Two of my 4 Toulouse geese carry on very gentle conversations with me. The 4 one week old African Brown geese just come running a screaming at me when they hear my voice. They are cute beyond words.


Thank you so much, Goose Girl!

I am confused by my gander's communication with me- he's constantly imploring me with his head up urgently saying "WheatWheatWheat". When we're all outside, he follows me around and seems to want to be around me, but if I talk to him or sit near him he will flee and make the rest of the group scared.
Today I had two little ducklings with me in the back yard and the "older group" (2 toulouse and 2 runner ducks) noticed the babies and the gander walked over with his head high and neck feathers kind of shaking. I'd point up at him and he'd stop and walk back to his group. I don't know if I interrupted an introduction or headed off an unpleasant interaction.

I hate that my older birds seem to get more and more scared of me instead of warming up to me.
My goose Keld is imprinted on humans, but he still takes some time to get to know strangers and feel safe around them. He likes large groups of people and will try to go to them (like if my neighbors are having a garden party), but if he gets closer, it seems like he suddenly realizes "Hey, I don't know these guys, they might be dangerous". Then the neck feathers will start shaking, and if someone makes a sudden move (like back away from the scary large bird), he'll go to level two or three.

During Christmas we went to my parent's house. My mother tried every trick in the book to get Keld to like her, but as she constantly tried to pet him or move closer to him, he actually took a dislike to her and didn't feel safe around her. My father, on the other hand, was much, much calmer. He'd sit in his chair with a crossword puzzle for hours, generally ignoring the goose. And Keld loved him; he would practically be sitting on his feet.

I've seen a similar reaction with a friend of Keld's best friend. This guy also started out ignoring Keld, just letting him gradually get closer and feel safer around him. Now, when Keld sees him, he'll run to him and let him pet him. It took about a month. And the guy never even had any treats!

In my experience, geese are the greatest cowards, constantly seeing potential threats in anything new or unusual. Keld even hissed at my parakeet when I first got it, even though it was in the cage, old and tired, and so much smaller than him. The cage is almost smaller than him, for crying out loud! For the first few days, Keld refused to go past the cage unless I lured him with a treat. But as he found out that the parakeet stayed put and didn't try to attack him, he got used to it.

If I were you, I'd spend some time just sitting down quietly near the geese. Maybe talk to them once in a while, but otherwise ignoring them. I'd bring a book so I wouldn't get bored. I think they'll start to feel safer around you, and your gander will probably begin to explore you, maybe poke at your shoes or chew your shoelaces. If you always move very slowly around them, they'll get used to you and not see you as a threat. But with a flock of geese, it requires a lot of patience and time. Good luck!
I too am new to "goose behavior" on a personal level. I hatched my babies out myself so at first I was mom but now they've become much more bonded to each other. Luckily they still see me as part of the flock! The Gander, Gus, quivers his neck as he's just about to sit down for a cuddle, so I always took it as an "I'm so excited that I love you so much" sort of thing. I never would have imagined it as any sort of threat though. Is it possible that a neck quiver could mean different things to different geese? Keep in mind too, that my two oldest geese are only about 7weeks old. They bring such joy to my life. I never realized what amazing creatures they were!
what about bowing? our gander will come up and bow and bob his head- we got him for our female, but she disappeared about 3 weeks ago, i am hoping she went broody somewhere- but he will come up and bow and honk on tippy toes
Oh, yes, I forgot about the head-bopping. I take that for a greeting. They do it to each other, too. It seems to me like their telling me all that went wrong since I last saw them. Actually, they remind me of the way old people will sometimes bop their heads while listing their grievances.

animaladdictions, I think you're right. There's a very thin line between excitement and apprehension for geese, and it seems to me they sometimes think "This is almost too good to be true, is there a catch?", without really believing it. My goose seems to do the neck quivering more when he's tired, too.

Someone ought to take a few years out of their lives to study and record goose behaviour and then publish The Comprehensive Goose Dictionary. I would definitely buy it!
I get tickled at mine. They really do have totally individual personalities. They of course all act like geese, but each one in their own unique way.

Sounds like a great idea Goose Girl! When are ya gonna start it!?

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