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SeeHear

Small Canada Goose or Cackling Goose?

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Is the markedly smaller of these geese a small Canada Goose or is it a Cackling Goose? 

I estimate the wingspan to be about 3/4 that of the larger geese in the flock.

Northeastern Illinois,  September 22, 2018.

Bird on left:

BDWfMep.jpg

Bird on top:

juZcFG1.jpg

Bird in middle:

B0GHZdO.jpg

Edited by SeeHear

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Hmm, Cackling from the air, with a photo, never tried that before! The first picture seems to show how tiny it is, and depending on angle I guess, it seems small enough for Cackling to me. The bill looks extra stubby in the other pics too. I'd says so!

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Is the apparent relative shortness of the neck an indicator?  Also, the head on the smaller bird appears wider from this angle.

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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7 hours ago, geoffclarke said:

Also, I'm not seeing a white chin strap on the smaller goose.

What are the implications of the lack of a white chin strap?  Here's another image, with the exposure increased in post processing.qWocNP2.jpg

 

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The lack chin patch probably doesn't mean anything. Some Canadas and Cackling, I believe as well can show a reduced or almost no white chin patch. I don't think it's relevant to the ID here. Most likely a coincidence.

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About the ID, I'm generally pretty wary about calling a Cackler in flight. The first caution is that Cackling and Canada do hybridize. Top goose experts Steve Mlodonow and Louis Bevier agree that hybrids do exist, and likely more frequently than birders might think. 

A few years back, a Cackling Goose was reported by a local expert here in CT. Everything seemed good for Cackling until people began to have different thoughts, with the help of Steve and Louis. That bird was a likely hybird. My main point here is that Cackling Goose ID is anything but simple. Even expert birders are confused by the variation within both species, as well as the presence of hybrids, even in cases where birds are studied and photographed well, as in the CT example.

This bird may very well be a Cackling, but I wouldn't place much faith in that ID from a flight shot alone.

Edited by akiley
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Cackling should show a white cheek patch, even at this angle.  Thus, I would place no confidence in an ID of Cackler for this bird, as it could be a hybrid.  Cackling is known to hybridize with Canada, Snow, and Ross's, so....

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