Monday, January 25, 2010

At the pond... Cackling Goose

Cackling GooseCackling Goose, Beaverton, Oregon on 17 February 2009 by Greg Gillson.


In July 2004 the American Ornithologists Union officially separated the small forms of Canada Geese. They called these smaller white-cheeked geese the Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii. The larger forms retained the name Canada Goose Branta canadensis.

We have already discussed the larger Canada Goose.

Cackling Geese form the majority of the large flocks of fall and spring geese west of the Cascades and in the Central Valley of California. In past years the population primarily migrated through the Klamath Basin and wintered in the Central Valley. In recent years a growing portion of these geese have been finding conditions in NW Oregon and SW Washington suitable for their wintering grounds.

In general (and there is considerable variation among many forms in the Pacific NW), Canada Geese are larger, with longer necks, and honking calls. In contrast, Cackling Geese are small (some as small as domestic Mallards), with short necks, and high-pitched yelping calls.

Standing or swimming the wing tips fall short of the end of the tail on Canada Geese, while the longer wings of Cackling Geese extend well past the tip of the tail. The dividing line between the smallest form of Canada Goose (Lesser subspecies) and larger Cackling Goose (Taverner's subspecies) can be very confusing. For those wanting to tackle this challenge, please see John Rakestraw's article on Lesser Canada Goose as well as Sibley's guide to birds.

The Aleutian Goose Festival is held each spring in Crescent City, California. It is now transformed into the California Redwoods Bird & Nature Festival, May 7-9, 2010. This form of Cackling Goose is recovering from a severe population decline.


  1. You might like to comment on this picture of Canada Geese taken April 2, 2009 at Jackson Bopttom:

    There is quite a variety of neck length and bill length in the group.

    Thanks, Tom B.

  2. Thanks for the photo, Tom. My first stab at a guess is that there are 2 big Western Canada Geese in the center of the photo. The two on the right are Taverner's Cackling Geese, as is the single on the left. The big bird, second from the left, may be Lesser Canada Goose, or it may by another Western Canada Goose. The smaller bird in the center is likely a 4th Taverner's Cackling Goose.

    Anyone else want to hazard a guess?