6 Types of Geese & Swans in Alabama! (2024)

Geese are some of the largest birds you will find in Alabama!

Common Geese and Swans in Alabama

Assuming you’re near a large body of water, it shouldn’t be too hard to find at least a few different species. They are fairly common in most lakes, estuaries, wetlands, lagoons, bays, or anywhere else they can find food. Most types of geese are also regularly spotted in farm fields during the winter months, eating leftover crops.

Today, you will learn about 6 types of geese and swans that live in Alabama!

For each species, I provide some fun facts along with how to identify them by sight OR sound. Make sure to pay attention to the range maps to see which of these birds live near you!


#1. Canada Goose

  • Branta canadensis

Types of geese in alabama

  • Large goose with a long black neck and a distinctive white cheek patch.
  • Brown body with a pale white chest and underparts.
  • Black feet and legs.

Canada Geese are extremely common in Alabama.

I’m sure you probably recognize these birds, as they are very comfortable living around people and human development. Look for them wherever there are grasses or grains to eat, such as lawns, parks, farm fields, and golf courses.

Canada Goose Range Map

canada goose range map

In fact, these geese are so abundant that many people consider them pests for the amount of waste they produce! If you have a manicured lawn maintained to the water’s edge, you have an open invitation for these birds to visit.

The Canada Goose is also easy to identify while flying overhead. If you see a flock of large birds in a V-formation, it’s most likely them. Flying this way helps conserve energy, and different birds take turns leading the way.

Canada Geese make a wide variety of loud honks and cackles. They have even hissed at me for accidentally approaching a nest too closely. Listen below!

If you’re interested, you may be able to see a Canada Goose at my bird-feeding station right now! I have a LIVE high-definition camera watching my feeders 24/7. 🙂 Look for them on the ground eating corn.


#2. Snow Goose

  • Anser caerulescens

Types of geese in alabama

  • Most of these birds are all white with black tail feathers. But some individuals display a “blue morph,” whose heads are still white but bodies are sooty gray.
  • Pink legs.
  • Pink bill, which has a black patch on each side.

During the breeding season, Snow Geese spend their time in the continent’s northernmost areas, away from human civilization. You will only see this goose in Alabama when they migrate south in fall and winter.

Snow Goose Range Map

snow goose range map

Look for these birds in large fields and bodies of water. It’s usually not hard to find them if they are around, as they are almost always seen in huge flocks accompanied by a lot of honking!

In fact, one of the most impressive things you will watch today is the video below, which shows an ENORMOUS flock of Snow Geese. It’s hard to fathom how many birds are traveling together!

YouTube video

As you can probably hear from the video above, Snow Geese are one of the noisiest waterfowl you will encounter in Alabama. Their nasally, one-syllable honk can be heard at any time of day or night, at any time of the year!

And lastly, here is a fun fact that my kids loved to learn. Snow Geese are prolific at pooping, and they defecate between 6 – 15 times per hour. 🙂


#3. Ross’s Goose

  • Anser rossii

Geese and Swans species

  • Small, stocky goose that is completely white, except for black wingtips. They are slightly larger than a Mallard duck.
  • A stubby red-orange bill that has a gray base.
  • Legs and feet are also red-orange.

Ross’s Goose looks very similar to the Snow Goose, except they are smaller and have a shorter neck and stubbier bill. It’s common for these two species to travel together in the same large flocks!

Ross’s Goose Range Map

ross goose range map

Populations of Ross’s Goose have been increasing due to climate change. As their summer breeding grounds in the Arctic are warming, the snow cover has been reduced, which increases plant growth. More plants mean more food for Ross’s Goose, which leads to more babies being born and surviving!

During migration and the non-breeding season, these geese can be seen in Alabama in marshes, lakes, and farm fields, where they enjoy eating leftover crops.

If you see a flock of white geese flying overhead, listen for Ross’s Goose, which gives a distinctive “keekkeek keek” call. It will sound higher in pitch than a Snow Goose.


#4. Mute Swan

  • Cygnus olor

mute swans

  • A huge white bird with a long white neck.
  • Look for the distinctive orange bill that features a black base and knob.

Mute Swans are among the most elegant and beautiful birds you will see in the water. They are also enormous and are one of the heaviest birds that can fly!

But did you know that Mute Swans are NOT native to Alabama?

Due to their beauty, Mute Swans were imported from Europe and released in parks, large estates, and zoos. Unfortunately, these individuals escaped and have established an invasive wild population.

Don’t be fooled by their appearance; these swans can be aggressive and regularly attack kayakers and other people who get too close to their nest. They also displace native ecosystems due to their voracious appetite, which requires up to 8 pounds (3.6 kg) of aquatic vegetation daily!

Despite their name, these swans are not mute!

While relatively quiet, they make a hoarse trumpet sound when defending their territory. And if they are threatened, expect to hear various barks, hisses, and snorts.


#5. Swan Goose

  • Anser cygnoides

  • Swan Geese are one of the largest geese species. They stand, on average, 3 feet tall (.9 m). Males are usually larger than females.
  • Swan Geese have a beautiful range of brown shades on their bodies. Their head and neck are chocolate brown on the upper side and pale beige underneath, giving a stripe effect.
  • The legs of Swan Geese are vibrantly orange, while their beaks are deep black.

Swan Geese are a vulnerable species in their native range of Asia. However, they have been domesticated and introduced around the globe for centuries. Two popular domesticated geese breeds, the Chinese Goose and the African Goose, are direct descendants of Swan Geese. They look quite different from their ancestors, with an upright posture and knobbly protrusions above their beaks.

In Alabama, you are much more likely to encounter Swan, Chinese, or African Geese in a domesticated collection than in the wild. However, it is possible to spot escaped or released individuals flocking together with other species near waterways!

I found it interesting that Swan Geese live close to lakes, ponds, or wetlands but rarely swim!


#6. Greylag Goose

  • Anser anser

  • Greylag Geese are a soft, warm gray-brown.
  • Their feathers are rimmed with narrow white edges, which gives them a delicate barred pattern over their wings, chest, and sides.
  • The legs of Greylag Geese are pink, while their bills are bright orange.

Greylag Geese are NOT native to Alabama!

These birds are found naturally across Europe and Asia, where they are very common and have a huge natural range.

Interestingly, Greylag Geese gave rise to almost all common domesticated goose breeds.

In Alabama, domesticated Greylag Geese can commonly be seen on farms, estates, and in zoological collections. Occasionally, escaped birds may flourish as feral populations.

Greylag Geese are very social animals. They will almost always be found in flocks, ranging from a few birds to thousands of animals. When flying, flocks adopt the classic V-shape flight formation. Play the video to see them in action!

YouTube video

Do you want to learn about MORE birds in Alabama?

Check out these ID Guides. Each one is specific to birds found here!


Which of these swans and geese have you seen in Alabama?

Leave a comment below!

The range maps below were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!

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