Friday, 2 January 2015

Bird Behaviour: Goose Mating Behaviour

Goose Mating Rituals

embden geese mating
Male Embden goose mating
"Birdwatching is not an exact science. Sometimes you need to go back and review what you have seen and reassess bird behaviour in light of more recent observations. Such is the case here. At the start of the mating season I reported seeing what I assumed was two male geese mating one after the other with the same female. Since then it has become obvious that the second 'mating' was a ritual act by the dominant female in a threesome, to do exactly that, to establish her dominance over the second female.  It has been established that goosy threesomes are, in fact, very common. In this instance there is one male with an alpha female and a beta female. This is their story.

The geese featured in this photo journal are domestic geese gone wild. They live on a greenfield site called Greenhill where they have become naturalised. The birds are tame enough to be fed (if you don't get too close) and wild enough to be able to observe bird behaviour at close quarters.

 Geese mating in March

Alpha female goose exerts her dominance over beta female.
Male Embden goose watching.

embden geese mating
China Goose as alpha female 'mounts'
beta goose
 In March, a goosy threesome was observed mating. One was a big white Embden goose who mated with a smaller white Embden goose while a Chinese goose stayed alongside. With what happened next I assumed the China goose was male.  After the male had mated with the small white goose, the China goose mounted her. I assumed then it was male but not so. In fact, the China goose is female and is the dominant or senior female in this threesome. In this mock mating ritual what she was doing, encouraged by her big male, was exerting her dominance, her position as alpha female. I suppose I should have guessed given there was no showy 'crowing' after this apparent mating. Males always proclaim their conquest - very loudly!

 Goosy threesomes

 In the natural world threesomes are not uncommon. Many species have one male mating with more than one female to perpetuate the species. Obviously when more eggs are laid the chances of more surviving are raised. In this case, the threesome had 20 goslings between them. Poultry keepers usually recommend you keep two females for each male.

China Goose, Embden goose and chicks
China Goose as alpha females broods as many as she can

 After the Hatch

geese and goslings
geese with chicks
male keeping guard as the females brood the goslings

 Now that all the goslings have hatched, the China goose continues to be the dominant female. She appears to take the lead in teaching the goslings new things and in decision making - that is, she is the one who makes the first move to and from the canal. Also, most of the goslings go to her for brooding and quite often the little white female is seen off to one side. At times though, the beta female is allowed a few of the goslings under her wing.

China goose, Embden geese, goslings
Geese brooding goslings

China goose, Embden geese, goslings
The whole brood on the canal

 A Word About the Photos All the geese and gosling pictures here are by AnnMackieMiller and are copyright to the photographer dated 2011. They may not be reproduced or copied without permission. However, links to this site are encouraged. High resolution copies of all bird pictures are available for sale. Contact Ann for details.

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