Although they are separate species, it’s not entirely unreasonable to wonder about a duck-goose hybrid. After all, we already some inter-species hybrids like mules, ligers, and zorses already exist. So what about our feathered friends? Are duck-goose hybrids possible?
Ducks and geese are two completely separate species. Although they can live together and may even attempt to mate, they can never produce a fertilized egg together. Unlike some other mammal species pairs like horses and donkeys, this means a duck-goose hybrid is completely impossible.
In this article, we’re going to look at the possibility of duck-geese mating, learn why it’s not possible for them to create hybrid offspring, and look at some purported duck-geese hybrids and find out what’s really going on with them.
Can Ducks and Geese Mate?
Although ducks and geese both belong to the Anatidae family of water-dwelling migratory birds, they are separate species and can not produce viable offspring together.
Although offspring is not possible, sometimes a goose will try to mate with a duck or vice-versa, and ducks and geese can pair with each other. There are examples of different waterfowl species flocking together.
According to waterfowl conservation agency Ducks Unlimited, ducks and geese may even raise each other’s young. Goslings and Ducklings are sometimes raised together by an adult from either species in a phenomenon called brood amalgamation.
So although ducks and geese can’t make a family together, they can (and do) live together, flock together, raise their young together, and can form friendships/companionship together.
Read More: Why Do Geese Mate For Life?
Duck and Goose Hybrid Species
Intra-species hybrids are possible for both geese and ducks, but inter-species hybrids between ducks and geese are not possible.
Hybrid goose species can occur in the wild as well as in captivity when two or more flocks of geese from different breeds occupy the same area. Depending on the specific breeds of geese involved, the resulting hybrid may or may not be fertile.
Duck hybrids are also possible and quite common, but only between different species of ducks and not with geese, swans, or other waterfowl.
In a 2016 research review published in the scientific journal ‘Frontiers in Zoology’, it was postulated that the reason duck hybrids were so common was that male ducks are not good at differentiating between female ducks from different species.
Similar to geese hybrids, duck hybrids are not always fertile. The closer the two breeds are genetically the better chance they have of creating a viable hybrid species.
Purported Hybrids Between Geese and Ducks
There are a few species of ducks and geese that some have claimed are duck-goose hybrids, however, there is a logical explanation for each of these animals.
Unlike horses and donkeys, ducks and geese are not even able to create an infertile offspring (mule) and we haven’t seen any real evidence of a duck-goose hybrid yet.
Two species that are commonly claimed as duck-goose hybrids are Muscovy Ducks and Shelducks, however, neither of these species are hybrids.
1. Muscovy Ducks
Muscovy ducks are often confused with geese, or even turkeys because of their red face and white feathers, however, Muscovy ducks are actually (as their name suggests) a large species of duck.
Muscovies are native to South America but are now widely domesticated in North America and Europe. They are occasionally found with solid white coloring, which makes them look similar to snow geese.
Shelducks are an interesting species. To a layman, they look like a large duck, but in zoology they are classified as their own species, completely separate from both ducks and geese. This leads to a lot of confusion, with many people confusing them for duck-goose hybrids.
Shelducks belong to the family Antidae, (the same family as many waterfowl including ducks, geese, and swans), however, they are found their own distinct genus (Tadorna) which is separate from both Geese and Ducks, who are found in the Anseri and Anatini genera respectively.
Can Geese and Ducks Produce Offspring?
Even though ducks and geese may attempt to mate, it’s impossible for a duck to fertilize a goose egg or vice versa.
Although they can’t produce viable offspring together, ducks and chickens are sometimes used to incubate goose eggs, which results in the gosling imprinting to the duck as a surrogate mother.
Farmers do this because once a goose has laid, incubated, and successfully hatched a clutch of eggs, they usually don’t lay again until the following season.
While this is perfectly logical in the wild, it’s no use for farmers who want consistent egg laying from their geese.
Read More: How Many Eggs do Geese Lay?
Can Geese Live With Ducks?
Yes! Ducks and geese can live together, both in the wild and on farms.
In the wild, many waterfowl species end up living together to benefit from the protection a large flock provides.
On farms, geese and ducks are often intentionally raised together because they have slightly different diets that work well together. Both geese and ducks will eat tender new grass, but ducks will also readily eat insects, small fish, and worms.
Geese and ducks can live in peace with each other, and often flock together in the wild, even taking part in raising the offspring of the other species.
Read More: Do Geese Hibernate?
To sum up, although geese and ducks are perfectly happy to live together and may even attempt to mate, it’s not possible for ducks and geese to successfully breed to create a hybrid species.
Of the many purported hybrid species found in the wild, none of them are duck-geese hybrids. Muscovy ducks are large ducks, and Shelducks are a separate species from both geese and ducks.
Although ducks and geese can’t create viable offspring themselves, in the wild ducks and geese often flock together and share parenting responsibilities with other species. It’s common for goslings and ducklings to be raised together in the same flock at the same time.