Duck-Goose Hybrids?

Recently I photographed these waterfowl in southwest Illinois, some of which I suspected may be duck-goose hybrids. Turns out they are not-see comments below the pictures-but still interesting! Such hybridization is very rare (though hybrids between mallards and other kinds of ducks are common). Duck-goose hybridization has been observed among waterfowl in captivity, but there is debate about whether it occurs in nature.

I didn't really know whether these were duck-goose hybrids when I took these pictures, and wondered what they were. Again, see below. But one interesting thing is that this group pretty much always stays together. If you look at the first two pictures, you will see geese at the left (and these definitely are geese; they honk like geese rather than quacking like ducks). Turns out these are Chinese swan geese. You will also see mallards, as in the front center of the first picture. But then look at the others - lots with markings and colors that are intermediate between the geese and mallards that are always in this group of birds. Turns out these are some kind of domesticated, mallard-based duck, either Saxonies or Indian Runner Ducks, per comments below. I will research these breeds a little more and add anything interesting that I find on them as time permits.

The following pictures give more views that show the range of appearances, and in the last picture, a more close-up picture of what I thought might have been a duck-goose hybrid.

I would welcome any additional knowledgeable input on breeds such as Chinese swan goose, Saxony, or Indian runner duck, or any other information that might be relevant. If you have relevant information please email me. I will share any informative comments that I receive.

John Farley

Comments and responses:

From Charlie Moors of 10,000 Birds (referring to the second picture from the top above), November 8, 2010:

Hi John

Nice mixed group of birds there!

The two birds at the back are indeed geese - but not Snows. They're a
domesticated form of the Chinese Swan Goose - smaller than the (now very
rare) wild form, but widely kept in captivity (originally as 'guard dogs' as
they're very loud and can be very aggressive).

Your two well-marked drake/male Mallards in the foreground are a
domesticated form called the Saxony, a German breed known in the US as a
“Golden Cascade”. I think most of the females are showing signs of being
that form. The lead Mallard is just a mixed-up type I call a Manky, and
there seems to be a normal Mallard at the back of the group.

Just shows what can be found on ponds etc these days!

Hope that helps

All the best


From Renne Leatto, November 8, 2010:

Hi John, 
Your "hybrids" are a mallard-derived domestic breed of duck (no goose
involved, I assure you) called Indian Runner Ducks. I used to raise them and
sell them to 4H'ers for showing at county fairs.

Thanks for the comments, Charlie and Rene. So there it is, folks - no duck-goose hybrids. These pictures were taken on a 130-acre residential lake in southwest Illinois - so it is entirely possible that the Chinese swan geese and/or the Saxony or Indian Runner Ducks belong to or were put on the lake by residents. Or maybe they are "fly-aways." But either way, it is interesting how they have bonded with the mallards on the lake - this group always seems to be pretty much together.

John, November 8, 2010

This page last updated November 8, 2010.