Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Cackling Geese

On my walk along the South Platte this morning, I encountered a large flock of cackling geese, resting on the river.  Prior to 2004, these "small Canada geese" were considered to be subspecies of their larger cousins.  They are now classified as a separate species though they, themselves, are represented by several subspecies.

After nesting on the Arctic tundra of Northwest Canada and Alaska, cackling geese winter in the Pacific Coast States or in the south-central U.S.; their numbers seem to be increasing along the Colorado Front Range, both during migrations and throughout the winter.  When mingling with Canada geese, cackling geese are relatively easy to identify due to their smaller size, stubby bill, shorter neck and, in some subspecies, a white collar at the base of their neck.  They also have a higher-pitched call than Canada geese and, in my experience, tend to be calmer and quieter when resting on lakes or rivers.

Cackling geese are perhaps easiest to identify when flying at a distance.  While their coloration matches that of Canadas, their small size makes them look more like ducks than geese.  Should the flock approach your location, their higher-pitched calls confirm the identification.