In spring each year, you may notice that the geese are off in pairs and not flying much, if at all. From February to March is the typical mating time for geese, followed by a nesting period from mid-March to mid-May.
Geese are monogamous creatures, meaning that they will only have one partner their entire life. They choose their partner often by selecting a similar size to themselves. In the unfortunate event that a partner dies, the widow will find another partner. Geese do not mate until they are in their 4th breeding year after birth. The birds will go to the same area where they were born to mate and nest each year. Mating typically takes place in water, where the male will get on top of the female, and she will be submerged under water.
During the time of nesting, the female takes charge of the nest – creating, maintaining, covering the eggs, etc. She will lay one egg each day until they are all laid. Geese will generally have about 5 eggs in their clutch, but up to 9 eggs. Once all of the eggs are laid, the female then starts to incubate them. When she leaves the nest, she will cover the nest with camouflage, such as sticks, to hide the nest from predators and keep the nest warm.
While the female tends to the nest, the male serves as protector. He will stay on the lookout for predators, but will not go near the nest, as it may reveal its location to a predator. The female also keeps watch from the nest, which she constructed atop a raised mound on the ground, for any threat to herself or the eggs.
In 28-30 days from when the eggs were first laid, the eggs will all hatch around the same time. Within 24 hours of the goslings’ birth, the family will make their way to a body of water and the goslings will already have the ability to swim in the water. This is where the family will remain for the next 6-8 weeks while the goslings get bigger and stronger and the parents molt. Molting is when the adult birds lose their flight and tail feathers. The birds are unable to fly through the months of June and July, while they wait for their feathers to grow back. They stay by the water so they can escape predators quickly and easily.
The goslings are able to fly within 2 to 3 months of birth, not long after the adults have restored their feathers. They will spend the rest of the year foraging and, if they are migratory, they will make their voyage south. The families stick together, unlike the habits of many other types of animals, and will come back to their nesting spot together again the following year.