Updated November 28, 2004: I have updated the scientific names used on this page in line with the changes recently adopted by the American Ornithologist's Union's Committee on Classification and Nomenclature in the 45th supplement to the Checklist of North American Birds (Banks et al. 2004). The 11 previously recognized subspecies of Canada Goose Branta canadensis - canadensis (Atlantic), interior (Interior), maxima (Giant), moffitti (Moffitt's), parvipes (Lesser), fulva (Vancouver), occidentalis (Dusky), hutchinsii (Richardson's), leucopareia (Aleutian), taverneri (Taverner's) and minima (Cackling) - are now partitioned between two species, Canada Goose B. canadensis and Cackling Goose B. hutchinsii, as follows:

Canada Goose B. canadensis: canadensis (Atlantic), interior (Interior), maxima (Giant), moffitti (Moffitt's), parvipes (Lesser), fulva (Vancouver) and occidentalis (Dusky)

Cackling Goose B. hutchinsii: hutchinsii (Richardson's), leucopareia (Aleutian), taverneri (Taverner's) and minima (Cackling)

For further information on these various forms, see this useful summary on Angus Wilson's website.  Separation of the "Canada" goose forms into two species represents a useful step forward in understanding the relationships between these various taxa, but selection of the name "Cackling Goose" for B. hutchinsii seems like a poor choice given that this name was previously used only for minima. I have therefore opted to continue using the common names mentioned above for the various taxa, reserving "Cackling Goose" specifically for minima.

Banks, R. C., C. Cicero, J. L. Dunn, A. W. Kratter, P. C. Rasmussen, J. V. Remsen, J. D. Rising, D. F. Stotz. 2004. Forty-fifth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds. Auk 121:985-995


The birds on this page were part of a mixed flock of approximately 100 geese feeding in a field at Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, California.  Because of the heavy hunting pressure at this location, the birds were very wary and could only be viewed and digiscoped at considerable distances.  I assume the large, pale Canada Geese Branta canadensis are the expected locally common form moffitti.  Most of the small, dark "Canadas" appear to be Cackling Geese B. hutchinsii minima. Several of the small birds show an obvious white collar at the base of the black neck sock, like Aleutian Goose B. h. leucopareia, but otherwise still appear to be minima, looking too dark and too short-necked for leucopareia.  All comments on the identification of these birds would be much appreciated (please contact me by e-mail)

1. Six Cackling Geese Branta hutchinsii minima (foreground), with three Canada Geese B. canadensis (moffitti?), Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Siskiyou, California, USA, November 30, 2003.  Note the very small size of the minima, their short necks, small bills, compact shape and dark underparts.

2. Three Cackling Geese B. h. minima (foreground), with one Canada Goose B. canadensis (moffitti?), Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Siskiyou, California, USA, November 30, 2003.  An enlargement of the center bird from image 1 above.

3. Cackling Goose B. h. minima (right), with Canada Goose B. canadensis (moffitti?), Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Siskiyou, California, USA, November 30, 2003.  Note the rich, dark color on the breast of the Cackling Goose.

4. Four Cackling Geese B. h. minima (foreground), with two Canada Geese B. canadensis (moffitti?), Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Siskiyou, California, USA, November 30, 2003.

5. Cackling Goose B. h. minima (left), with two Canada Geese B. canadensis (moffitti?), Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Siskiyou, California, USA, November 30, 2003.  The tiny size of the minima is even more apparent in flight.

6. Three Cackling Geese B. h. minima (foreground), with one Canada Goose B. canadensis (moffitti? - background, left), Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Siskiyou, California, USA, November 30, 2003.  With it's distinct white collar at the base of the black neck "sock", shadowed below by a blurry dark collar, the bird at far right could be an Aleutian Goose. However, minima can also show a white collar, and this bird appears to be just as small and dark as the two minima to the left.

7. Cackling Goose B. h. minima (left), with three Greater White-fronted Geese Anser albifrons, Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Siskiyou, California, USA, November 30, 2003.  Several of the apparent Cackling Geese in this flock displayed a prominent white collar at the base of the black neck "sock", often shadowed below by a blurry dark collar.  I assume these birds are minima with white collars rather than leucopareia, as they appear to be just as small and dark as the other minima.  For comparison, more photographs of Aleutian Geese can be found here:

Aleutian Geese Point Arena, Mendocino County, California, January 19, 2003

Aleutian Goose Pt Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, California, November 16, 2003

Aleutian Geese Bolinas Lagoon, Marin County, California, December 07, 2003

© Stephen J. Davies

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