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Cackling Goose Identification

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The Four Keys to ID

  • Size & Shape

    A compact, small goose, with short neck, rounded crown, rather long wings, and short legs. The small bill is short and meets the forehead at a steep angle.

    Relative Size

    Slightly larger than a Brant, smaller than most Canada Geese.

    Relative Sizegoose or largergoose-sized or larger

    • Both Sexes
      • Length: 24.8-25.6 in (63-65 cm)
      • Weight: 49.3-84.0 oz (1398-2380 g)
      • Wingspan: 42.5-43.7 in (108-111 cm)

Regional Differences

Four subspecies differ in size, structure, and plumage. The smallest and darkest subspecies, minima, breeds in western Alaska and winters in Oregon and California. The next smallest subspecies, leucopareia, breeds in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and winters in central California. It is paler than minima, with a more distinctive white collar where the black neck meets the brown body. Subspecies hutchinsii, also called Richardson’s Goose, breeds mainly in central and eastern arctic Canada and winters in the southern Great Plains, with small numbers found in eastern North America as well. This subspecies is paler still and usually lacks the white collar entirely. The largest subspecies, taverneri, is often called Taverner’s Goose. It breeds from northeastern Alaska into Canada and winters in the southwestern U.S. This subspecies has a bit longer bill, on average, and is very similar to the smallest subspecies of Canada Goose (Lesser Canada Goose, subspecies parvipes). This close similarity—and the hybridization of Cackling and Canada Geese in some areas—justify using caution in identification of intermediate individuals, and “Canada/Cackling Goose” is often the best way to record these.