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Read the statements about waterfowl before reading the article. Check in either the “agree” or “disagree” column. Skim the article to locate the correct information. Highlight the parts of the statements that are not true.
Geese preen their feathers because they want to look good.
Some waterfowl migrate up to 6,000 miles one way.
Waterfowl migrate by following paths called “flypaths”.
A baby duck, goose, or swan thinks that any object near them when hatching is its parent. This is called "bird adoption”.
Geese fly in a “Y” formation which makes flying easier for the whole flock.
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There is not another group of birds that is as
well known as the family Anatidae--the
waterfowl. No matter where you live, it is
likely there are waterfowl--ducks, geese, or
There are 148 species in the Anatidae family
with 57 species living in North America. All
of these waterfowl share certain physical
features. They all have short legs with
webbed feet that help them swim and dive.
The majority of them have flattened bills with
specialized edges that are used for picking up
food from the water and straining it.
All waterfowl, or "wildfowl" as they are
called in European countries, have outer
feathers that are very oily. The oil is
produced by a preen gland located just over
the tail. The oil is worked into the feathers by
the bill in an act called preening. If you
watch a duck, goose, or swan at rest, you will
see that the bird seems to "bite" the top of the
tail then comb its feathers with its bill. It is
actually waterproofing its feathers with the
Beneath the outer feathers is a lining of down
(small fluffy feathers) plus a layer of fat,
which provide insulation. Because the oiled
outer feathers do not allow water to pass
through, the inner lining of down rarely gets
wet. That is why waterfowl are able to swim
and still remain warm and dry during the
winter, while we humans stand shivering on
Nearly all the waterfowl are strong fliers.
They may fly thousands of miles during the
spring and fall migration seasons. You have
probably seen migrating geese flying
overhead in a V-formation, or wild ducks
making rest stops in city and country ponds.
In some cases, especially in the Southern
Hemisphere, some types of waterfowl do not
migrate and spend their entire lives in the
Individual species that travel south in the fall,
and back north each spring, will fly as far as
9,600 kilometers (6,000 miles) one way. The
blue-winged teal, a small duck, makes this
long trip from its nesting grounds in the far
north to its wintering place in the Southern
Waterfowl often travel well-defined flight
paths. In North America there are four such
wide paths known as "flyways." They are
called the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and
Pacific flyways. These flyways were
determined by biologists who studied banded
Another interesting feature common to
waterfowl is their habit of imprinting. This
means that a baby duck, goose, or swan will
identify anything near it after hatching--from
a chicken to a human being--as its parent.
Experiments have shown that any large,
moving object, even a balloon or a puppet,
will be treated as a parent by a downy
youngster. It is difficult to return orphaned
birds to the wild once they are imprinted by
anything other than their natural pare
Fourteen varieties of geese can be found
throughout the world. Nearly all of them live
in the Northern Hemisphere and make long
migrations in the winter, though they do not
fly as far as most ducks.
In body size, geese are generally larger than
ducks and smaller than swans. The weight of
adult birds ranges from 1 to 9 kilograms
(about 2 to 20 pounds). Unlike ducks, it is
not easy to distinguish the male (called the
gander) from the female (properly called the
goose). Both birds have identical coloring.
Geese are highly gregarious, which means
they like to be in the company of their own
kind. On the wintering grounds massive
flocks of 20,000 or more birds are sometimes
Mating Habits. Males and females mate for
life, although if one dies, the other will often
find another mate. The youngsters, called
goslings, stay with their parents throughout
their first year of life. Most geese do not mate
until they are three years old.
Male geese establish the nesting territory and
defend it from intruders and predators. The
nests are built of grasses, twigs, and reeds.
They are often located along the shoreline, in
grasses or reeds, or atop muskrat houses.
The nest is lined with down from the female's
breast. Four to seven eggs are in the usual
clutch, and they hatch in three to four weeks.
Unlike the male duck, the gander stays with
the female and helps protect and raise the
offspring. After hatching it takes from 40 to
85 days for the young to begin flying.
Migration. Canada geese and various other
species fly in a V-formation, or wedge. The
wedge has a leader, and each successive
goose flies slightly to the left or right of the
leader to form the V. The movement of air
by the wings of each bird makes the task of
flying a bit easier for the bird in back of it.
Obviously, the leader has to do the most
work. On long flights several leaders will take
turns at the job.
Eating Habits. Like most waterfowl, geese
eat many types of vegetation. Their bills are
also equipped for clipping grasses and leaves.
They frequently stop in cornfields to pick up
leftover grain. They sometimes cause
problems on golf courses where they pluck
the green grass, roots and all.
Types of Geese. The Canada goose is North
America's best-known species of goose.
Throughout the continent there are eleven
subtypes of Canada geese that look very
much alike but differ in size. The smallest,
called the cackling goose, weighs from 1 to 2
kilograms (about 2 to 4 pounds). The largest,
the giant Canada goose, can grow to 7
kilograms (almost 16 pounds) or more.
Geese vary greatly in colors. Canada geese
and brants, small marine geese, are
sometimes referred to as "black geese"
because of their many black feathers. "Gray
geese," such as the white-fronted goose and
the rare emperor goose, have feathers that
range from gray to white.
The beautiful snow goose and the small
Ross's goose are pure white. Often these
geese will not have pure colors until their
second or third years of life because it takes a
long time for the adult plumage to develop.
The blue goose is a color phase of the snow
goose. The tiny Ross's goose also has the
distinction of being the world's smallest
goose--a mere 1.3 kilograms (less than 3
Goose Hunting. Geese, like ducks, are
heavily hunted in the United States and
Canada. Economically they are very
important to people in places such as the
Chesapeake Bay region in Maryland,
Delaware, and Virginia where millions of
dollars are spent by visitors who come to see
and hunt them.
Goose down, which is collected from dead
birds, is also important for insulation in winter
clothes. However, synthetic products have
made expensive down clothing and sleeping
bags less popular.
Most of the world's geese are present in high
numbers, assuring their survival. Only the
Hawaiian goose, or "nene," is endangered.
This species almost became extinct in the
1950's. Only through human concern for
them have their numbers increased since that