The Ugly Duckling is alive: But it's a goose

There is a goose in Copenhagen thinking it is a swan. It will eventually be overcome by identity problems the poor sod, predicts a biologist.

En gås er blevet adopteret af en svanefamilie i søen i Fælledparken.
Foto: Ida Marie Odgaard

In one of Copenhagen’s major parks swim a family of swans – parent birds and four chicks. Plus a gosling making up the rear.

The little goose appears to think it is part of the swan family and the swans treat the little bastard as a cozy variation on the swan lake theme.

A comparison with the tale of “The Ugly Duckling” by fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen seems obvious – although it is rather the other way round here.

But why and how is this phenomenon possible in the natural world where being of a different hue and “not one of us” is more often than not frowned upon if not severely punished.

Foto: Ida Marie Odgaard.

Knud Flensted, biologist at the Danish society for the protection of birds, has three possible explanations as to why a gosling may have ended up in a family of swans. Personally, he has found it at least ten times over the past 25 years.

Firstly, a person can have shifted a goose egg to a swan nest. It wouldn’t be the first time someone tries to “confuse” nature.

Secondly, it may be the case of a newly hatched gosling straying away from the nest or been abandoned by the parent birds only to be adopted by a couple of swans in family mode.

Foto: Ida Marie Odgaard.

And thirdly, a goose may have laid an egg in a swan’s nest as some duck birds are wont to do:

“It is not unknown that ducks are hormonally stimulated when they come across a nest with eggs. They become broody, so to speak,” says Flensted.

”You can manipulate hens to do the same.”

According to the biologist the goose will not experience identity problems right away.

“It will just follow the parent birds.”

Foto: Ida Marie Odgaard.

But in a year and a half, when the goose is sexually mature the debacle unfolds: without knowing why, the goose will find itself as lonely as a lightship since it is the only “swoose” in the pond.

It’s quite true!

English translation: Lars Rosenkvist

Foto: Ida Marie Odgaard.