MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: What makes geese swim so well?

Date: Mon Apr 6 08:39:09 1998
Posted By: Neala MacDonald, Grad Student, MSc in Zoology, University of Western Ontario
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 886552881.Zo

Dear Jon:

Your question about how the webbed feet and body feathers of geese help them swin was very interesting. Geese, as well as ducks and swans, all can be thought of as "miny boats". The large webbed feet are what move the goose around in the water; just like the propeller on a motor boat. Just like boats, Geese also need a source of energy to turn the propeller. However, Geese do not run on gasoline, they need food (energy) to burn in their engines. The large leg muscles of Geese are the engine that make the feet of the geese move causing the goose to swim around. The body feathers of the goose are one of the things that make the goose float on top of the water (just like a boat!).

There are actually 2 layers of feathers: 1) the contour feathers and 2) the down feathers. Contour feathers are on the outside of the goose. Their main purpose is to keep the goose dry. Geese must keep these feathers clean and groomed, just like when you wash and comb your hair. Geese wash their feathers and water-proof them with an oily substance; this "washing" and "combing" that a goose does is called preening. This oily substance helps keep the feathers water-proofed so the goose can float on the water. The other type of feathers, the down feathers, are close to their body. Down feathers trap air between the body and the contour feathers, which keeps the goose warm and helps keep them from sinking.

I hope I answered your questions about Geese. If you have any other questions about Geese, Ducks, or Swans feel free to ask me.

Shannon Badzinski, Ph.D. (Candidate)
Department of Zoology
University of Western Ontario

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