Geese are a common type of bird that is found all around the world. Geese are a type of waterfowl, not dissimilar in many ways to ducks. Geese are the largest type of waterfowl in the world, and they tend to live near ponds, lakes swamps, and marshes. Though geese are known as waterbirds, they primarily live on land.
While geese may be native to your area, you’ve probably never seen the inside of a goose’s mouth before. Have you ever wondered if geese have teeth? What do geese eat? Is it okay to feed them bread when you encounter geese at the local park? Do geese bite? Does a goose bite hurt? Read on to find out.
In short, geese do not have the kind of teeth that mammals have. However, geese do have special kinds of sharp teeth that are attached to their beaks and tongues and are made out of cartilage.
Do Geese Have Teeth?
Geese can bite, but their bite probably isn’t what you would expect. Geese do not have teeth. At least, they don’t have teeth made of enamel-like humans do. The inside of a beak is not smooth like you would imagine, but rather, lined with teeth-like protrusions that grow from the bird’s mouth and tongue.
Birds, via evolution, do not have teeth. Rather than teeth as we know them, geese do have something called tomia. Tomia is composed of cartilage rather than enamel. Tomia can be found on both the beak and tongue of geese. Tomia do not fall out like human teeth because they are an extension of the geese’s mouths.
Geese teeth are not classified as such because they are not comprised of the same material as human teeth. The teeth of mammals have parts such as enamel, dentin, pulp, nerves, and blood flow. The cartilage tomia do not have any of the classic parts of a tooth, meaning it is not truly a tooth by definition.
Why don’t geese have enamel teeth? Fossils of geese date back between ten and fifty million years ago. Ancient geese may have been flightless and more closely resembling their dinosaur-like ancestors. The goose’s diet may be to blame for their evolution to lose enamel-coated teeth.
Though geese’ teeth are made from cartilage, they are still hard as bone and should not be disregarded.
If you get a close enough look into a goose’s mouth and catch a glimpse of its tomia, it can be slightly frightening to see. Geese’s teeth look like rows of chompers much like a shark or a horror movie monster. It may look like geese have teeth, but the function of their tomia is different than mammal teeth as well.
Expert Tip: Different species of geese found in different parts of the world have varying colors of tomia from bright orange to black.
Not only do geese use their teeth for ripping apart their food, but they also use their beaks and teeth to collect sticks and twigs. Geese reinforce their nests by collecting pieces of strong twigs and branches they find. Geese like to build their nests in slightly elevated areas so look out for nests in bushes, low trees, or elevated areas near lakes.
Baby geese are called goslings and they are born with fully formed tomia as well. Tomia serve a dual purpose in baby geese and birds as it aids in holding food down and helping them properly swallow. The proper term for tomia found on geese’s tongues is spiny papillae.
Biting is an important part of a goose’s mating ritual, as biting one another and being aggressive is a way for males to win over a female. The most aggressive male goose that bites the others is the one female geese want to mate with. This practice is particularly found in Canadian geese, which tend to be very aggressive toward one another.
Do Geese Really Have Teeth on their Tongues?
Geese don’t have the same type of teeth that humans do. Geese’s teeth are made of cartilage and protrude from their mouth, tongue, and beak-like tiny, serrated blades. While their beaks and tongues may look similar to the fearsome mouth of their Jurassic predecessors, goose bites are far less frightening than that of a dinosaur.
Although geese’ teeth are made of cartilage, they are still very sharp and hard. Only some species of geese have tomia on their tongues in addition to their beaks. Some geese however only have tomia lined on their upper and lower beaks without the serrated edges on their tongues.
Geese are not the only kind of birds that evolved tomia on their tongues and beaks but also swans, ducks, penguins, and toucans do as well!
Geese use the serrated tomia on their beak and tongue to eat grass, leaves, roots, stems, and other ground-level vegetation. While these tiny tooth-shaped pieces of cartilage are jagged and tough. Geese teeth or tomia are strong enough to rip apart their prey. Geese need access to fresh water every day in order to survive.
Most geese live near a freshwater source. Geese use fresh water to drink and to bathe. Do geese have to clean their teeth? Geese don’t clean their teeth like humans do, as they do not have a need to. Geese drink and splash in the water to get clean, and they do not specifically cleanse their teeth or tomia.
One protrusion of the tomia is called tomium. The tomium is the sharpest part of a goose’s mouth. Many animals are the goose’s natural predators, including dogs, coyotes, bears, and eagles to name a few.
While geese are not afraid of attacking humans (or each other) they don’t typically fight back at their natural predators. They will, however, run quickly away from predators, which is why you may have heard the expression leading a wild goose chase.
Does a Goose Bite Really Hurt?
In the wild, geese are known to be slightly aggressive in nature. Since geese have been evolving alongside humans for so long, they are used to human presence and not afraid of us. Approaching a goose, especially with eggs or young or during mating season, the bird may act particularly aggressive and territorial.
As a warning sign, geese may hiss to warn humans to stay away and to respect their space. If a goose hisses at you, be sure to back away slowly. If you continue to provoke geese, there is a chance they may bite.
Geese are not shy and there is a chance that if you get close to a nest, the goose will follow you and chase you while hissing. If this happens, slowly back away from the goose and do not provoke it further. Geese are extremely territorial and will go to great lengths to protect their space and their young. Both male and female geese are known to be incredibly territorial and defensive of one another.
Although geese do not have hard, enamel teeth, their bite can still leave a mark! Their tomia are in fact sharp. Does a bite from a goose hurt? A goose bite may feel like a pinch and could leave a bruise. There is a chance a goose bite may break the skin, as their tomia are strong enough to rip apart small prey.
Expert Tip: Geese should not be underestimated, as it is possible for their bite to draw blood. While their bite may hurt and cause slight bleeding, geese’s teeth are not as strong or as hard as enamel human teeth.
A goose could bite or peck at a person or hit someone with its wings. Geese may honk and squawk to warn others of a potential threat. Never yell or swat or honk back at an aggressive goose. These are the goose-only methods of defending themselves. Geese will only bite or swat their wings or act aggressively when they feel threatened.
Geese can be peaceful in their natural environment and only bite when you encroach on their personal space. If you see geese outside walk slowly and observe cautiously, so as to not provoke their aggressive behavior.
If a young child gets bitten by a goose, they may be frightened and slightly hurt. Chances are a goose bite will not break the skin and will only leave a small mark. If a goose bites you, remain calm. When the goose realizes you are not a threat, it will retreat, and you can tend your wound.
Be sure to teach your children about goose safety and encourage them not to feed or approach the wildfowl.
How Do Geese Eat and Digest their Food?
Never feed the wildlife! Next time you go to the park, skip on the loaf of bread for the birds. Feeding bread to birds and geese is not good for their health. A goose’s natural diet does not consist of bread or sugars, so when geese eat bread it’s kind of like eating junk food.
Eating bread can make geese very sick even to the point of death. Uneaten bread can be left to mold on the ground, and if geese eat moldy bread, it can be toxic. Especially never feed geese processed foods such as fast foods or French Fries. It is best to never feed wild geese and to leave nature to do its work.
Geese have a vast and varied diet of many different plants and animal life. Geese eat low-lying vegetation they can reach as well as any insects, rodents, and fish they can catch. A goose’s diet may consist of wheat, corn, beans, grass, flowers, seeds, berries, rice, snails, shellfish, and eel.
The shape of the serrated tomia is perfect for geese to grip and tear grass and vegetation from the ground. If geese’ beaks were smooth and toothless, they wouldn’t have a good grip as they do with the aid of the tomia.
Geese that have a diet of mainly fish have evolved sharp tomia to grab and grip onto slippery, wet fish and hold them in place while they feast. Geese use their cartilaginous teeth, tomia, to catch and grip their prey. Geese don’t need to chew their food, rather, they rip apart their food or swallow prey and vegetation whole.
Geese are omnivores. In addition to leaves and grass, alfalfa, and clover, they also eat rodents, fish, and small insects. Also, geese cannot chew, they can use their beaks and teeth to rip and crush their food. The tomia on geese’s tongues allow them to bite and tear apart their food into smaller chunks.
Since they cannot chew the way humans can masticate and break food down into a digestible size, geese need some aid from an additional organ for digestion. Geese have a gizzard (just like turkeys!) which is a separate organ that breaks down food into smaller, digestible pieces.
The gizzard breaks up food so that gastric juices may properly aid geese in the digestive process. Geese gizzards are actually more powerful than the gizzards of chickens and ducks.
An interesting fact about geese’s digestion is that geese will swallow gravel and small rocks and pebbles or insoluble grit which aid the gizzard in digestion since geese lack traditional teeth.
Geese have teeth! But they aren’t quite what you’d expect Geese’s teeth are made of flexible but sharp cartilage and aid in ripping and tearing food into smaller pieces. While geese do not have hard, enamel-coated teeth, a bite from a goose may still hurt so approach them with caution.
Geese teeth have many functions. Geese use their tomia for biting, not only for their food but also as a part of their mating ritual. Geese tend to be aggressive toward one another and also toward humans, so it’s important not to provoke geese or disrupt their nests.
Geese are very unique animals, and they have an interesting digestive process. Geese are omnivores and they use their sharp tomia to pull their food into smaller pieces. While geese eat many things in the wild, their diet does not consist of bread!