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It can be a Cackling, even if it’s not a Cackling Cackling

January 10, 2006

I’m still trying to get fully up to speed on the relatively recent changes to the whole Canada/Cackling Goose split. Fortunately there are some good resources out there for those like me – Richard Trinkner posted this link on COBirds a couple days ago to a page maintained by David Sibley which discusses in detail the subspecies alignments among the two species. Like Richard I was a little surprised to learn that all the minima subspecies have been included into the Cackling Goose, and not just the former Cackling subspecies of Canada:

First, to clear up some confusion about the names of the species and subspecies: The former broad Canada Goose has been divided into a large-bodied, interior- and southern-breeding species, and a small-bodied tundra-breeding subspecies. The large-bodied group is still known as Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) while the small-bodied group takes the name Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii). This means that the English name Cackling Goose, which has in the past been more or less restricted to the smallest subspecies (the far western B. c. minima) is now the species name for all four of the small subspecies. This new species takes the scientific name of the earliest-named subspecies and becomes Branta hutchinsii.

Bill Schmoker has some very nice shots of Canada/Cackler combos too, as well as links to a couple other sites that have useful identification tips and more technical information on the split. I have a few photos of my own, with the one above taken recently at Lake Loveland. It shows a Cackler (front right) with 3 Canadas, left behind, and right (off frame). The Cackler is probably a Richardson’s, and the Canadas seem like Lessers, although if anyone thinks I’m wrong feel free to tell me so in the comments. And better yet, tell me why!

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