The Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) occurs in North America, where it is regionally common.
This species has adapted well to living in urban and suburban areas and are commonly found on lakes, ponds and rivers. In the past, the Cackling Goose was considered to be a smaller subspecies of the Canada Goose.
However, in July 2004, the American Ornithologists’ Union’s Committee split them up into two separate species based on genetic studies and differences in:
- size (most races of Cackling Goose being smaller than the Canada Goose)
- breeding habitat (Cackling Goose breeds farther northward and westward than the Canada Goose)
There are 5 subspecies of Cackling Goose, of varying sizes and plumage details. The smallest form of the Cackling Goose – the Lesser Canada Goose or Small Cackling Goose – is only about a quarter the size of the “Giant Canada Goose.”
This goose is easily recognized by its black head and neck, distinctive white patches on the face, light tan to cream chest and its otherwise brownish-grey plumage.
They are strong swimmers, divers and flyers. Cackling Geese are long-distance migrants and are well known for their V-shaped flight formation, during which the front position is rotated since flying in front consumes the most energy. This species is protected in North America under the Migratory Bird Act of 1918, making it illegal to harm, take, or possess migratory birds, any parts of the bird, their nests or their eggs, except during the hunting season, or by special permit (MacGowan, Loven and Whitford).