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Cackling Goose


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The newly recognized Cackling Goose is a smaller version of the Canada Goose. Formerly considered the smallest subspecies of one variable species, recent work on genetic differences found the four smallest forms to be very different. These four races are now recognized as a full species: the Cackling Goose. It breeds farther northward and westward than does the Canada Goose.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
21.7–29.5 in
55–75 cm
33.5–105.8 oz
950–3000 g
Other Names
  • Canada Goose (in part)
  • Bernache de Hutchins (French)

Cool Facts

  • The Cackling Goose was long considered just a small race of the Canada Goose. The smallest four of the eleven recognized races were recently determined to be distinct enough to be their own species. Cackling Goose includes the races known as Taverner's, Richardson's, Aleutian, and Cackling geese. Confusingly, the "Lesser Canada Goose" is still a race of the Canada Goose.
  • Although most Cackling Geese nest along ponds and streams in the tundra, the Aleutian form nests on south-facing turf slopes above rocky, cliff-bound shorelines. The Richardson's form can nest in colonies of several hundred pairs on cliffs and steep rock slopes.
  • The smallest form of the Cackling Goose is only a quarter the size of the "Giant Canada Goose" subspecies.
  • The oldest recorded Cackling Goose was a male, and at least 22 years, 8 months old when he was shot in Oregon in 2010. He had been banded in Alaska in 1987.



Breeds in coastal marshes, along tundra ponds and streams, and steep turf slopes above rocky shores.



Entirely herbivorous. Eats variety of plant species and parts, especially grasses, sedges, grain, and berries.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
2–8 eggs
Egg Description
Creamy white.
Condition at Hatching
Covered with down and eyes open. Leaves nest within 24 hours of hatching with the ability to swim and feed.
Nest Description

Nest a large open cup, made of dry grasses, lichens, and mosses, lined with down and some body feathers. Usually placed on slightly elevated sites near water. Some cliff nesting.

Nest Placement



Ground Forager

Grazes on grass. Tips up to reach aquatic vegetation. Feeds in flocks in fields.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

There is little information on population numbers and trends of Cackling Goose. The population that nest on the Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta in Alaska are estimated to number between 290,000-390,00 breeding individuals, and this population has been stable from 2006 to 2015. The Aleutian Cackling Goose was protected under the original Endangered Species Act in 1973, but was removed from the list in 2001. Other forms may be increasing, but still appear to be below long-term averages. The species rates an 11 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Cackling Goose is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List.


  • Mowbray, T. B., C. R. Ely, J. S. Sedinger, and R. E. Trost. 2002. Canada Goose (Branta canadensis). In The Birds of North America, No.682 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
  • Banks, R. C., et al. 2004. Forty-fifth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds. Auk 121: 985-995.
  • North American Bird Conservation Initiative. 2016. The State of North America’s Birds 2016. Environment and Climate Change Canada: Ottawa, Ontario.
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2015. Waterfowl Population Status, 2015. U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.
  • USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. 2016. Longevity records of North American Birds.

Range Map Help

Cackling Goose Range Map
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