Cackling Goose in Michigan

Allen Chartier amazilia1 at
Wed Sep 29 16:16:06 EDT 2004


I have copied below, with his permission, a posting from Bill Whan (editor
of The Ohio Cardinal) regarding the recent (July 2004) A.O.U. split of
Canada Goose and Cackling Goose.  I felt his comments were as good, or
better than I could have written, and the links are interesting and
informative as well.

It seems likely that Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) will be added to the
Michigan list as there are several specimens with the appropriate subspecies
designations on the labels at the University of Michigan.  But first, the
Michigan Bird Records Committee will likely need to view these specimens to
verify their existence, and correct identification, before officially adding
Cackling Goose to the state's list.

As we head into the fall season, I'd like to request that birders submitting
reports to me for the Michigan Bird Survey take especially good notes (and
photos if possible) of any suspected Cackling Goose in the state.  For the
time being (perhaps only for this year), it makes sense to treat this newly
split species as a Review List species, requiring documentation, until we're
sure we understand its occurrence in Michigan.  Please send documentation
and photos to me (amazilia1 at and I'll forward them to the MBRC
after making copies for my bird survey files.  Please note that it is
entirely up to the current MBRC to decide whether to simply archive these
reports, or to formally review them as well.


See below....

Allen Chartier
amazilia1 at
1442 West River Park Drive
Inkster, MI  48141
Michigan HummerNet:

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bill Whan" <billwhan at>
To: <ohio-birds at>
Sent: Tuesday, September 28, 2004 9:27 AM
Subject: Cackling Goose in Ohio

Most observers will, by now, know about the recent split in the Canada goose
complex, which has resulted in a new species called cackling goose. I put a
summary of this news on the OOS web site about this not long ago at ; those who want to catch up
can do so there.  Almost certainly this species has occurred many times in
Ohio before, and will occur again. A little earlier than expected, these
"new" geese have apparently started to show up in nearby places already. One
was reported in Ontario three days ago, and former Ohioan Matt Victoria
posted good photos of what appears to be one on his website at and an interesting discussion ensued on the
New York state mailing list; see  Some of the
questions brought up include the relative size of this individual  versus
Canada geese nearby, its subspecies (is it the rare minima race from the
Aleutians?), and--of course--the issue of wild origin.  Whatever the answers
to these questions, it is probably time we start looking for small Canadas
as migrants arrive. They should stand out like sore pinkies among our
resident giant Canadas.

For those of you who use Sibley, the forms he identifies as "Aleutian,"
"Richardson's," and "Cackling" are the ones to look for.  On his web site at Sibley offers one
correction to this page in his field guide: "page 75 - Aleutian Canada
Goose - small text label "White neck ring typical of this population but
LACKING IN SOME INDIVIDUALS AND occurs infrequently in all OTHER
populations" and also gives the scientific names for the subspecies he

"Canada Goose     Branta canadensis
Common B. c. canadensis group
Lesser  B. c. parvipes
Richardson's B. c. hutchinsii
Dusky  B. c. occidentalis group
Cackling B. c. minima
Aleutian B. c. leucopareia

rather arbitrarily divided here into six subspecies groups that differ in
size, plumage, and voice; but all are connected by intermediate populations
and identification can be difficult, even though the extremes seem like
different species."

I am working on a list of previous sightings of what are probably cackling
geese in Ohio.  As for future sightings, PLEASE take photos if possible, and
either way write up the details and send to the Ohio Bird Records Committee
care of Jim McCormac at jim.mccormac at One important reason to
do so is that it appears likely that *more* splits will be announced in the
Canada goose complex, whereupon it probably won't be enough just to assume
any small Canada is a cackling goose.  Even if it's a little confusing at
first, you have to admit it'll be nice to have an extra reason to scan
ubiquitous flocks of Canadas from now on!

Bill Whan
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