Length: 21-30 in Weight: 2-6 lbs
The cuter, less murderous version of a Canada Goose: all black head and neck with a thick white chin strap; brown body and wings with a white rump and black tail.
Compared to the Canada Goose, a Cackling Goose is smaller, with a smaller/stubbier bill and more rounded head.
Breeds in far northern Alaska and Canada. In winter, present in small pockets along the Pacific coast and in the Midwest.
The Cackling Goose was long considered to be just an especially small subspecies of the Canada Goose. It was not until 2004 that the Cackling Goose was recognized as a full species by the American Ornithologists Union.
Fresh off the (scientific) press:
Despite very similar appearances, Cackling and Canada Geese remain distinct as species in part due to their use of different breeding areas, with Cackling Geese typically breeding farther north.
Leafloor et al. (2013) studied breeding Cackling and Canada Geese in a small strip where their ranges overlap, specifically to see how frequently hybridization occurs when both species are not geographically separated. Despite some evidence for historical hybridization present in Cackling Goose DNA, most birds were distinctly one species or the other, suggesting that additional behavioral or ecological factors prevent these species from hybridizing.
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Leafloor, J O, J A Moore, K T Scribner. 2013. A hybrid zone between Canada geese (Branta canadensis) and cackling geese (B. hutchinsii). The Auk 130: 487-500.