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A mystery goose from the north

This is the hybrid goose in flight (to the right). White wingtips and a white breast are very evident. When this goose vocalized, it was louder than the rest of the flock.


November 17, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were paddling on Walker Lake in Shohola, PA when we spotted a migrant flock of Canada geese on the far shore. About a dozen or so geese were foraging and resting; they seemed like the typical small flock that stops over during this time of year during their migration south. One individual, however, caught my eye; even from afar, it seemed to have more white plumage than a normal Canada goose.

As we paddled closer, it was apparent that the goose in question did not have typical Canada goose plumage and was a hybrid. Most of the white we saw from the far shore came from a largely white breast. It also had a larger eye patch, and a longer neck than its brethren. It had small pink markings on the bill, and when it paddled, we could see that it had pink legs and feet.

When a hybrid goose or duck is seen, it is often difficult to identify the species of both parents, as varying contributing characteristics from each parent are carried to the offspring every time a hybrid offspring is produced. Complicating identification is the frequent occurrence of one parent of a hybrid offspring being a hybridized domestic goose itself.

Our hybrid is somewhat of a mystery. The eye patch closely resembles the “Greater White-fronted X Canada Goose hybrid” pictured in the Sibley Guide to Birds, but the rest of the plumage, and especially the pink legs are in conflict. Some members of a local birding club suggest that the mystery goose may have had an Asian parent, perhaps domestic.

To hear the call of a goose, click here