Birds Of Southern California

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)

The Cackling Goose to a trained eye can be rather easy to differentiate when compared to a Canada Goose. Though their calls are similiar, the white ring at the base of the neck, shorter profile and stubbier black bill are 3 good identifiers. The white ring at the base of the neck is most obvious and bold. The photos in this section were taken in February 2014 and February 2015 as noted at Village Pond Park in Lake Forest. The cackling goose was originally considered to be the same species or a subspecies of the Canada goose, but in July 2004 the American Ornithologists' Union's (AOU) Committee on Classification and Nomenclature split the two into two species, making cackling goose into a full species with the scientific name Branta hutchinsii. The British Ornithologists Union followed suit in June 2005. The distinctions between the two geese have led to a great deal of confusion and debate among ornithologists. This has been aggravated by the overlap between the small types of Canada goose and larger types of cackling goose. Most interestingly, the old "lesser Canada goose" was believed to be a partly hybrid population, with the birds named taverneri considered a mixture of minima, occidentalis and parvipes. In addition, it has been determined that the barnacle goose is a derivative of the cackling goose lineage, whereas the Hawaiian goose is an insular representative of the Canada goose. The black head and neck with white "chinstrap" distinguish this goose from all except the larger Canada goose (Branta canadensis) and the similarly sized barnacle goose (B. leucopsis). There are up to 5 subspecies of cackling goose, of varying sizes and plumage details. The female looks virtually identical but is slightly lighter and has a different voice. Some are hard to distinguish from the Canada goose, with which the cackling goose was long assumed to form one species, the cackling goose and the smaller Canada goose subspecies being called the lesser Canada goose. The smallest 1.4 kg (3.1 lb) Cackling geese (B. h. minima) are much smaller than any Canada goose, but the subspecies B. h. hutchinsii, at up to 3 kg (6.6 lb), grows to the same size as some Canada geese. The distinctness of the extinct population of the Komandorski and Kuril Islands B. h. asiatica is controversial. The barnacle goose differs in having a black breast and grey, rather than brownish, body plumage. More on the Cackling Goose can be found here: