Types of Geese and Swans in Pennsylvania

Growing up near Pennsylvania’s wetlands, my days were filled with the sights and sounds of geese and swans. As an avid birdwatcher, my experience with these majestic creatures runs deep. I believe that the Canada Goose’s distinctive honk and the Tundra Swan’s graceful flight are a testament to the beauty of our state’s avian residents.

Through the changing seasons, I have witnessed their resilience and adaptability firsthand. Exploring the wetlands, I have developed a profound connection with these waterfowl, each one holding a special place in my heart. The enchanting world of geese and swans in Pennsylvania is truly a treasure to behold.

Key Takeaways

  • Canada Geese, Snow Geese, Cackling Geese, and Tundra Swans are prominent species in Pennsylvania.
  • Geese species share common traits like foraging on grasses and distinct vocalizations.
  • Snow Geese and Tundra Swans exhibit specific nesting, feeding, and migration behaviors.
  • Geese and Swans enrich Pennsylvania’s avian diversity with their unique characteristics and seasonal presence.

Canada Goose

The Canada Goose, a distinctive waterfowl species found abundantly in Pennsylvania, is easily identified by its striking black head, white chin strap, brown body, and long neck. These geese feed on a varied diet consisting of grasses, aquatic insects, fish, wheat, rice, and corn.

With a wingspan ranging from 50 to 71 inches and weighing around 105.8 ounces, they’re impressive creatures to observe. During breeding season, some Canada Geese migrate to the southern US, while others remain in the northern US. Their presence in Pennsylvania is significant, with 22% recorded in summer checklists and 27% in winter checklists.

Observing these majestic birds in flight or on the ground is a common delight for many bird watchers in the region.

Snow Goose

From the Canada Goose, let’s now shift our focus to the Snow Goose, a striking waterfowl species that graces Pennsylvania with its presence during fall and winter migrations. Snow Geese are mostly white with black tail feathers and pink legs, often displaying a blue morph variant with a white head and dark blue-gray body. These geese primarily feed on plant vegetation and seeds, nesting in large colonies on tundra areas. You can easily spot Snow Geese in Pennsylvania by their noisy honking and their presence in large flocks in fields and bodies of water. They are a common sight all year round in Pennsylvania, with their numbers peaking from November to mid-April.

ColorMostly white with black tail feathers and pink legs
HabitatLarge colonies, nesting on tundra
Notable FeatureBlue morph variant with a white head and blue-gray body
BehaviorNoisy honking, migrating to Pennsylvania

Cackling Goose

Migrating to Pennsylvania during certain seasons, the Cackling Goose is a smaller waterfowl species with distinct black heads and white chinstraps. These geese, smaller than Canada Geese, are commonly found year-round in wetlands and meadows, where they forage on grasses, sedges, berries, and crops in agricultural fields.

Measuring 20-22 inches in length, weighing 35.2 ounces, and boasting a wingspan of 41-43 inches, they’ve a unique high-pitched honking call that differentiates them from other geese species. Breeding in Canada and Alaska, Cackling Geese bring their striking appearance and vocal presence to the diverse habitats of Pennsylvania, enriching the state’s avian landscape.


Brant geese, distinguished by their distinctive black chest, head, and bill with a white patch on the neck, are known for their unique characteristics and behaviors. These geese primarily nest in the Arctic region and migrate south to coastal areas in Pennsylvania.

Feeding on eelgrass and algae, Brant geese have a vegetarian diet. Their vocalization is characterized by a guttural ‘crrronk’ call. Compared to other geese species, Brant geese are smaller in size, measuring between 22-26 inches in length and weighing around 63.84 ounces.

Their choice of habitat and feeding preferences make them an intriguing species to observe along the coastal regions of Pennsylvania.

Tundra Swan

Tundra Swans, also known as Whistling Swans, are prominent residents of Pennsylvania from November to April, displaying distinct white bodies with black legs and feet. These white birds, primarily breeding in the Canadian Arctic and coastal Alaska, adapt to Pennsylvania’s winter by foraging on aquatic vegetation such as grasses.

Their nesting habits are unique, with mound-shaped nests located near water sources. In terms of physical characteristics, Tundra Swans in Pennsylvania typically measure 48-58 inches in length and weigh around 370.37 ounces.

Their ability to thrive in various habitats, from Arctic tundra to wetlands and agricultural fields, showcases their adaptability and resilience during the winter months in Pennsylvania.

Trumpeter Swan

The Trumpeter Swan, renowned as the largest and heaviest native bird in North America, boasts striking features with its entirely white body contrasted by black bills, legs, and feet.

These majestic swans breed in northwestern Canada and Alaska, favoring habitats like marshes, lakes, and rivers with dense vegetation.

Known for their monogamous mating behavior, Trumpeter Swans form strong pair bonds that often last for life. They exhibit territorial nesting habits, fiercely defending their nesting sites against intruders.

Observing these graceful creatures in the wild offers a glimpse into the intricate behaviors and impressive physical characteristics that make Trumpeter Swans a captivating species to study and admire.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Kind of Swans Are in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, you can find Mute Swans, Tundra Swans, Trumpeter Swans, and Whooper Swans. Mute Swans are non-native and the largest with orange bills. Tundra Swans have entirely white bodies and breed in the Canadian Arctic.

What Kind of Geese Are in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, you can find Canada Geese, Snow Geese, Cackling Geese, and Brant, among other species. Identifying them by physical features, calls, and migration habits can enrich your birdwatching experiences in the state.

How Can You Tell a Goose From a Swan?

To distinguish a goose from a swan, notice the swan’s longer, elegant S-shaped neck compared to the goose’s shorter neck. Geese typically honk loudly, while swans produce a softer, melodious call. Swans often display all-white plumage, while geese have more varied color patterns.

Is There a Goose That Looks Like a Swan?

Yes, there is a goose that resembles a swan. The Snow Goose, with its white plumage, can be mistaken for a swan due to its graceful appearance. However, it can be distinguished by its shorter neck and smaller size.


In conclusion, Pennsylvania is home to a diverse array of geese and swans, each species distinguished by unique characteristics and behaviors. From the iconic honking calls of Canada Geese to the elegant presence of Trumpeter Swans, these waterfowl contribute to the rich avian population of the state.

By observing and appreciating the beauty of these graceful birds, nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers in Pennsylvania can gain a deeper understanding of the fascinating world of waterfowl.