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Home > Science & Nature > Nature > Birds > Goose and Swan Compared

Difference Between Goose and Swan

Goose vs Swan

Both swan and goose belong to the Family: Anatidae and Subfamily: Anserinae. Therefore, they have many features in common, which elevates the interest to search the differences between them. Geese are in a separate group known as Tribe: Anserini, while swans belong to Tribe: Cygini. Those taxonomic differences have a sensible basis that is their distinctive characteristics, which are important for the identification of geese and swans separately.


They are not a highly diversified group of birds, and there are only seven species classified under the Genus: Cygnus. Cob and pen are the referred common names for a male and a female rspectively. They are the largest members of the family in terms of body size and weight, and wingspan. Swans’ wingspan could be as large as more than three metres with a body length of over 1.5 metres. The body weighs about 15 kilograms. Despite their massive bodies, swans fly long distances during migration. Characteristically long neck is one of their most prominent features, which distinguishes them from other wetland birds. Interestingly, both pens and cobs are similar looking, unlike in many other birds. They have simple plumage patterns with colours are varying from black to pure white. However, colourfulness is lesser in swans compared to other birds. Most of the swan species live in the Northern hemisphere are white (e.g. mute swan), while Southern hemispheric species viz. Black swan in Australia have a black plumage. Many of them are migratory, while the other species showing changing food preferences do not migrate fully. They have life partners for mating, but sometimes the pair does not live together. Usually, the cob helps the pen to make their nest to lay and incubate the eggs. During incubation, the pen takes more responsibility. The lifespan of a swan could range from 8 – 20 years in the wild, but there is a record of a 50 year old swan in captivity.


Geese is a more diversified group of Anatids with 22 true geese species in 3 genera (Anser, domesticated and grey geese, Branta, Black geese, Chen, white geese). The commonly referred names of geese are gander for male and goose for female. They have midrange bodies those measure around 75 – 110 centimetres of length, 3- 9 kilograms of weight, and the wingspan is about 1.5 metres. Their neck is longer than ducks but shorter than swans. Geese are colourful birds, sometimes with golden plumages in goslings. They are primarily herbivorous and occasionally omnivorous in food habits. Almost all the geese species are migratory, and they fly over long distances during the winters in search of good food. They are pair bonded animals with strong family units. Those families do not breakup but stay together throughout the migratory period, and only at the next breeding season, the yearlings will leave the parents. Both male and female incubate eggs, and they shed their flight feathers during this time and regrowth does not take place until the hatchlings are ready to fly. These interesting wading birds have about 24 years of lifespan in wild, and much longer in captivity.

What is the difference between Swan and Goose?

• Diversity is more than three times higher in geese with 22 species in three genera, while there are only seven species of swans described under one genus.

• The commonly referred names for male and female are respectively cob and pen in swans, and gander and goose in geese.

• The cob helps the pen in making the nest, but not assist for the incubation of eggs. However, gander helps goose to incubate eggs and guard each other during incubation period.

• Geese have stronger family units, as they live and fly together over long distances, while swans do not have such strong family bonds.

• Swans have a longer neck, large body with a broad wingspan compared to geese.

• Swans are not as colourful as geese.

• Swans are either fully or partially migrating birds, whereas almost all the geese are migratory.


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