Domestic geese

Faced with a white goose in the wild, many novice birdwatchers in the UK or Europe will immediately think they've found a Snow Goose. In reality, the chances are they will have found a domestic goose, an escaped farmyard (barnyard) goose. As they are often not shown in field guides, domestic geese are also the source of problems for new birders in the US, but here it's often the more naturally-coloured birds that are mistaken for White-fronted Geese.

There are various named 'breeds' of domestic goose but all have descended from either Greylag Goose Anser anser or Swan Goose Anser cygnoides or both. Unlike their wild ancestors many are wholly or partially white and they often (but not always) have an abnormally large rear end.

Domestic Greylag Geese may have larger and brighter bills than their wild ancestors whereas domestic Swan Geese usually have black bills. So far as I know birds with part orange and part black bills have both species in their ancestry. Unlike wild Swan Geese, domestic Swan Geese usually show a swollen 'knob' at the base of the bill - so far as I know this is not found on domestic Greylag Geese. Both wild and domestic Swan Geese show a contrastingly dark rear of the head and neck - Greylag can show a slight contrast but not nearly so pronounced.

Many domestic geese show a mixture of the features I've described for Greylag and for Swan Goose - I am working on the assumption that such birds have both species in their ancestry. If anyone can validate or contradict that assumption, please let me know!

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domestic Goose (probably Swan Goose x Greylag Goose hybrid), Pentney Lakes (Norfolk, UK), 1st January 2005

 

domestic Greylag Goose, Pentney Lakes (Norfolk, UK), 18th November 2006

 

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domestic Greylag Goose, Swanton Morley, (Norfolk, UK), 23rd February 2008

 

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domestic Swan Goose, Abberton Reservoir (Essex, UK), 17th March 2004

 

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domestic geese (Greylag Geese and Swan Goose x Greylag Goose hybrids), Graffham Water (Cambridgeshire, UK), 24th September 2011 - the grey birds in the lower photos show mixed Greylag/Swan Goose characters

 

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domestic goose (probaby Greylag Goose x Swan Goose hybrid), Thetford (Norfolk, UK), 9th February 2013

 

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domestic goose (probaby Greylag Goose x Swan Goose hybrid), Thetford (Norfolk, UK), 19th November 2016 - probably the same bird as above

 

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domestic goose (probaby Greylag Goose x Swan Goose hybrid), Burnham Norton (Norfolk, UK), 24th September 2011

 

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domestic Greylag Goose, Wroxham Broad (Norfolk, UK), 24th September 2011

 

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domestic Greylag Geese, Whitlingham CP (Norfolk, UK), 1st July 2011

 

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domestic Greylag Geese, Whitlingham CP (Norfolk, UK), 19th June 2011 - the right hand bird in the right photo is a domestic goose but the full parentage is uncertain (but includes Swan Goose) - more photos of this bird are towards the bottom of this page

 

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domestic Greylag Goose, Drymere (Norfolk, UK), 16th February 2013

 

domestic Greylag Goose, Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 14th July 2007

 

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domestic goose (Swan Goose x Greylag Goose hybrid, with White-fronted Goose or hybrid in front), Neary Lagoon (California, USA), 1st May 2005

 

domestic Greylag Goose (with normal Greylag Geese), Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 13th January 2007

 

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domestic goose (probably Greylag Goose x Swan Goose hybrid), Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 6th April 2007

 

domestic Greylag Goose (with normal Greylag Goose behind), Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 18th March 2005

 

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domestic Greylag Goose, Caerlaverock (Dumfries & Galloway, UK), 29th December 2005

 

domestic Greylag Goose (with normal Greylag Goose behind), Tattersett (Norfolk, UK), 28th July 2004

 

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domestic Greylag Goose, Abberton Reservoir (Essex, UK), 21st August 2004

 

domestic (or just leucistic) Greylag Goose, Holkham Park, (Norfolk, UK), 17th February 2004

 

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domestic (or just leucistic) Greylag Goose, Holkham Park, (Norfolk, UK), 22nd November 2004

 

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domestic (or just leucistic) Greylag Goose, Coxford (Norfolk, UK), 2nd April 2004

 

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Greylag Goose showing white belly patch and white primaries, Coxford (Norfolk, UK), 2nd April 2004

Greylag Goose showing white belly patch and white primaries, Bittering GP (Norfolk, UK), 17th January 2004

Greylag Geese with white patches like this are usually assumed to have domestic ancestry, but this may not always be the case. Pink-footed Geese, which are not domesticated, frequently exhibit very similar examples of leucism and there is no reason to think that feral or wild Greylag Geese would not do so too.

 

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domestic Greylag Goose, Burnham Overy (Norfolk, UK), 4th February 2012

domestic Greylag Goose, Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 4th November 2007

 

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domestic goose (probably Greylag Goose x Swan Goose hybrid), Abberton Reservoir (Essex, UK), 21st August 2004

 

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domestic goose (probably Greylag Goose x Swan Goose hybrid), Whitlingham Broad (Norfolk, UK), 1st January 2010

 

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domestic geese, Whitlingham CP (Norfolk, UK), 19th June 2011 - two birds that appear to have both Swan Goose and Greylag Goose genes

 

domestic goose, Whitlingham CP (Norfolk, UK), 1st Juy 2011 - the same as to the left

 

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domestic Greylag Goose, Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 21st April 2007

 

domestic Goose (probably Swan Goose x Greylag Goose hybrid), West Lexham (Norfolk, UK), 29th April 201