Goose Vs. Swan – What’s the Difference Between a Goose and a Swan?

Goose and Swans are different birds, although that doesn’t mean that the difference between a goose and a swan is huge. For starters; they are both birds in the Anatidae classification. They have both been domesticated too. However, on this page we are not going to be talking about the similarities of these birds. Instead, we are going to pit goose vs swan and find out the differences.

goose vs swan differences
Swan and Goose Differences

Goose Vs Swan Differences at a Glance

Speedabout 40 miles per hourabout 22 miles per hour
Weightup to 22 lbs. (depending on the breed)up to 26 lbs.
EggsDomestic: up to 50 eggs per year,
Wild: up to 15 eggs per year
5 – 10 per year
Egg size (long x wide)4 x 2 inches4.7 x 2.7 inches
Lifespan10 to 24 yearsapproximately 20 to 30 years
Goose Vs Swan Differences at a Glance.
The numbers may vary depending on the breed.

The Number of Species

As we said before; both geese and swans are Anatidae birds. They are species under this classification. However, both birds can be broken down even further into subspecies:

  • The swan has seven subspecies
  • The goose has twenty-two subspecies

This means that there are more types of geese out there.

It is worth noting that the population levels for both of these birds is wildly different too. In some parts of the world, swans are regarded as critically endangered.

In fact, in some places where there used to be a lot of swans, there are now just a few breeding pairs. While it is unlikely that the swan will be disappearing any time soon, it can be a cause for concern.

Luckily, domestic swan breeders are helping to pick up the shortfall for the lack of swans in the wild.

Goose Vs Swan Differences in Appearances

Obviously, since they are both similar birds, there are not that many differences between them. The same as when it comes to ducks.

goose vs swan differences

They are also Anatidae birds, and thus they will look similar to both geese and swans. There are a few subtle differences between the two, though.

For starters, swans are going to be considerably larger than geese. Geese also have far shorter necks without a bend in them.

Swans will only come in white or black. The latter color is far, far rarer.

goose vs swan differences

Geese will almost never come in white. They look close to white, but most geese will have a slightly grey color to them. They can also come in brown or black.

Where They Live

Both swans and geese are water birds. However, they each spend a varying amount of time around the water.

With swans, it is rare that you will see them away from the water. It is very, very rare to see a swan step onto land. They really do love to swim.

Obviously, they do need to come onto land at some point, but they will make sure that it is absolutely necessary before they do so.

Geese, on the other hand, will spend a lot of time swimming. However, they are fine being away from the water for long stretches of time in order to forage for their food.

They will always return to the water eventually, but it isn’t uncommon to see them wandering around in heavily forested areas, even if there isn’t a bit of water in sight.

Where these birds are found are different too. Part of the reason why geese have so many different subspecies is that they are a bird that can be found everywhere around the world.

Swans, on the other hand, will only be found in Europe, some parts of Asia, and in North America.

Related article: Do swans fly and migrate south for the winter?

Goose Vs Swan Breeding Differences

Now, geese and swans are birds that take a lot of time to breed. This is why they are probably not more popular as domestic birds.

Both of them will have a single partner for life. This poses difficulty in itself, mostly because you cannot use the same male to mate with several females.

Both of these birds take an exceedingly long time to sexually mature. They may be laying eggs before, but you probably won’t find a goose laying fertile eggs before they are two-years-old.

Swans can take as long as 7-years to lay their first fertile eggs, although most will probably do it at the 3-4-year mark. They really are slow breeders.

Both of the birds have a mating season of around 3-months. They will only lay eggs during that time. Geese will tend to start in Spring, whereas Swans start in the summer months.

Goose Vs Swan Diet Differences

Next up on our goose vs swan is their diet.

Swans will get most of their food from the water. This will probably be plants. However, it is not unheard of for swans to eat smaller fish in the water.

This tends to be when they are lacking certain nutrients in their diet. It may also happen during the colder months when the plants start to die off a little bit.

Geese may get some of their food from the water, but they will get most of it ‘on land’. This includes berries, plants, and grains. Just like swans, they may also have a bit of meat in their diet too.

This will probably be small insects, but they may also eat small fish in the water.

The Domestic Use of the Birds

Both of the birds have a fairly similar purpose. You can eat the eggs and the meat of both geese and swans. The feathers of both of these birds will also be used for a variety of different purposes.

That being said, it is a lot rarer to eat swan meat. In fact, there are a few countries where it is effectively banned. If people do eat swan, then it tends to be reserved for a ‘special occasion’.

This is because they are not heavily farmed. Due to their larger size, it can also be very expensive to feed them, and their slow growth means that the cost of raising a swan is very high.

The result is expensive, but delicious, meat.

Geese, on the other hand, can be eaten as frequently as chickens and ducks. There have been many goose breeds ‘designed’ specifically for eating purposes. You don’t really get that with the swans.


As you can see, when it comes to goose vs swan, there are plenty of differences between the two, despite there being a few similarities.

At the end of the day, despite all the differences, these are both two types of beautiful bird.

You might be interesting to check our recent interesting article about the differences between an Emu and an Ostrich.

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