Swans and Geese

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Swans and geese are the largest members of the duck family, and swans are among the largest of all flying birds. Swans are larger in size and have proportionally larger feet and longer necks than geese, which are closely related. The plumage of both sexes of swans and geese are similar, although males in both groups are generally larger than females.

Swans eat mostly plant materials, which they find in the water and on land. They do most of their foraging in the water, by tipping up or dabbling, much like dabbling ducks. They do occasionally eat small aquatic animals. Swans form tight pair bonds that often last for life. Bonded pairs stay together year-round.

Geese have shorter necks and longer legs than swans. They spend much more time on land than swans, and they graze on grasses and other land plants, in addition to eating some aquatic plants. Geese mate for life and both parents care for the young.

Watch Out for Look-alikes!

Some kinds of geese and swans look very similar to each other, and also look similar to the highly endangered whooping crane, so take care to make positive identification of your target when hunting. Review the individual species pages for more details.


Snow goose in flight.

Snow Goose

Trumpeter swan in flight.

Trumpeter Swan

Whooping crane in flight.

Whooping Crane


Snow goose swimming.

Snow Goose

Trumpeter swan swimming.

Trumpeter Swan

Whooping crane swimming.

Whooping Crane