Not Just Any Goose: Cackling Goose

Photo of Cackling Goose (Limestone, ME)

[This post completes the goose trip story I started in last Monday's Barnacle Goose post.] After finding four species of geese in under an hour, I was determined to find a fifth. Scanning through the assemblage of geese on the crowded city pond, I focused my attention on finding a Cackling Goose -- essentially a miniature Canada Goose (prior to a species split in 2004, they were lumped with Canada Geese).

I was still searching when local birder Bill Sheehan showed up around 1pm to enjoy a goose-filled lunch break. I showed Bill the GWFG and the continuing BARGs, and passed on word of the shy flock of 19 SNGOs that I'd seen earlier. Bill joined the search for a Cackling, but neither of us would spot one on Collins Pond that day. Before we parted ways, Bill assured me that the more silvery back color of a Cackling Goose would stand out and recommended a couple of other ponds that I could try. With renewed hope, I set off.

My next stop yielded nearly 1200 Canada Geese, but no apparent rarities (the geese were pretty distant, and I'm not sure I'd have been able to spot a Cackling Goose with confidence at that range). Limestone Pond was next, where I found another 1000+ Canada Geese to scan through.

On my second or third scan of the flock, I noticed a small, pale-backed goose with a very short neck and stubby bill -- my first Cackling Goose! I watched the bird for the next 15 minutes or so, until s/he took flight with a group of Canada Geese, presumably heading to a nearby field to feed before nightfall.

The following day, I returned to Collins Pond to observe another midday goose gathering. Again I saw four types of geese, but instead of a flyby flock of Snow Geese, I watched a Cackling Goose (clearly a different individual than I'd seen the day before in Limestone) drop in right after the pair of Barnacle Geese.

To learn more about Cackling Geese, visit All About Birds. To view the following images in full-size, click here.

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