Sunday 12 January 2014

Greylag Goose x Mute Swan

domestic goose x Mute Swan hybrid, Wool (Dorset, UK), 24th October 2010 - copyright Dave Appleton
 (photo ID: 0001)

That swans and geese can produce hybrid offspring is often a surprise to birders but this has been well-documented for many years and the word Swoose has been in usage since early last century at least. Such birds are rare though and there are few photos available online. So when my attention was drawn to the presence of this bird in southern England I made an effort to go and see it.  A bit of detective work unearthed more information and more photos of the bird from when it was a gosling/cygnet in 2004.

A full account of this bird, along with many more photos, is on my website.

It turned out that the goose parent of this Swoose was itself a hybrid, showing mixed characters of both Greylag Goose and Swan Goose.

domestic goose x Mute Swan hybrid (same bird as in photo ID 0001 above), Wool (Dorset, UK), 24th October 2010 - copyright Dave Appleton
 (photo IDs: 0002-0003)

In my account of this bird I quoted the Daily Mail from 1920:
"A bird prodigy of evil and hybrid character is the despair of a Norfolk farmer. It rejoices in the name of the “swoose”, a portmanteau word indicating its origin, for its father was a swan and its mother a goose. This ill-assorted pair had three children — three “sweese”.
I didn't expect we would get photos of one of the 1920 birds referred to in the Daily Mail, but it seems likely that the bird shown below is one of these same birds.  The account differs slightly in that the bird below was said to be one of two (the other being killed) whereas the Daily Mail mentions three, but the Daily Mail quote refers to a Norfolk Farmer and the stuffed bird below lived at a Norfolk farm and was surviving in 1920.  Surely a great coincidence if not the same bird.

This stuffed bird was reported to be the product of a male Mute Swan and a female domestic goose, at a farm where no male geese were kept.  It hatched in April 1910, surviving until May 1924.  The taxidermist responsible for this was Frederick Ernest Gunn (1869-1950).  I am never sure how much we can take bill colour as being accurate with stuffed specimens (I am told they are often painted?), but on this bird the bill colour does resemble other examples of Mute Swan x white domestic goose hybrids.  The structure also appears to be in keeping with other Mute Swan x domestic goose hybrids, the neck being long and sinuous like a Mute Swan, and the eye and eye-ring resemble those of many domestic Greylag Geese, so the identification seems good to me.  We don't know what domestic goose was involved (i.e. Greylag Goose or Swan Goose or mixed ancestry) but I would imagine Greylag Goose is most likely given the minimal evidence of a 'knob' at the bill base and assuming the bill colour is accurate.

If you aren't satisfied with seeing the photos you can obtain the bird itself if you have a spare £8000 - it's now up for sale through taxidermy company Ayre & Co, to whom we're grateful for bringing this specimen to our attention and allowing us to use the photos.

stuffed domestic goose x Mute Swan hybrid, Beeston Priory, Sheringham (Norfolk, UK), died May 1924 - copyright David Ayre of Ayre & Co
(photo IDs: 2158-2159)

The next bird has been photographed by a few people and is said to involve a Greylag Goose x Mute Swan hybrid.  I am not sure if the Greylag parent was definitely a domestic bird or not but but the heavy belly evident in Africa's photos does suggest domestic goose involvement.  The darkness of this bird's tail is a little surprising to me.  Africa mentions that this bird called repeatedly with a sound which she describes as being reminiscent of a goose.

Greylag Goose x Mute Swan hybrid, Lausanne (Switzerland), 13th-14th August 2015 - copyright Africa Gómez
 (photo IDs: 2928-2930)

Mute Swan Cynus olor
Swan Goose Anser cygnoides
Greylag Goose Anser anser 


  1. I'm sure I remember a swan x goose hybrid featuring on Lionel Fanthorpe's "Fortean TV" show in the 1990s. I think the bird was all or nearly all black (or at least very dark) in colour, perhaps suggesting Black Swan parentage.

  2. Just seen photos of another "Swoose" (similar, but also noticeably different, to this one) photographed in 2015:

  3. Thanks Steve - would be good if we can get the Lausanne bird represented here too. I've seen photos of it before but these are better than the ones I remember - I'll ask the photographer.

  4. Piling on really late here but are you still collecting data on this topic? I spotted a bird today which looks like a goose/swan cross (to me at least)


  5. i have just bought this Swoose and it is now on display in my museum - 'The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & UnNatural Hisory' together with a Wholphin and assorted two headed sheep etc etc in London