Wild Geese

Cackling Geese

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Cackling Geese Details

Cackling Geese

Branta hutchinsii

The Cackling Goose originally was considered to be a subspecies of the Canada Goose. Just recently, in 2004, the American Ornithologists' Union's (AOU) Committee on Classification and Nomenclature decided to split them into two specific species. This was based on differences in size, call, breeding habitats, and other genetic markers.

Cackling Geese are much like Canada Geese in appearance. They have a mottled gray-brown body, black legs, bill, neck, head, and tail, and the distinctive white patch on the creeks. Cackling Geese tend to be bit smaller (although the smallest Canada Goose could be smaller than the biggest Cackling Goose). The general appearance of the Cackling Goose is stockier; they have shorter necks and stubbier bills. Their call is also higher-pitched than Canada Geese. Male and female Cackling Geese are similar in appearance.

Range: Cackling Geese are native to North America and spend the breeding season up in the tundra of North America, including Alaska and Canada. Cackling Geese winter in the Southern United States as well as Northern Mexico.

Habitat: Cackling Geese gravitate to water, and their breeding grounds in the tundra are always near water. In the winter and throughout their migration period, they tend to form large, gregarious groups. They live in a variety of ecosystems including rivers, marshes, lakes, pastures and fields, brackish waters, coastal marshes and bays, and even in urban and suburban parks .

Status in the Wild: The Cackling Goose is quite common in the wild, although some specific subspecies are much less common and are protected.

Status in Aviculture: These robust birds are easy to keep and are quite common in aviculture.

Breeding: Cackling Geese mate for life, forming bonds in their second year. Nest sites are always near water, usually situated in an elevated position and close enough for a quick retreat to the water if danger presents itself. The nest is made up of withered vegetation, grasses, moss, feathers, etc. and the typical clutch is 4-6 eggs. The female incubates the eggs for about 24-30 days, and the goslings leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching. The male stands guard and is protective, even aggressive.

Lifespan: In the wild, Cackling Geese have a lifespan of 10-24 years, but in captivity, they can live to over 30 years old.

Size: Cackling Geese are a bit smaller than most strains of Canada Geese, weighing between 4 and 7 pounds.

Housing Requirements: All wild geese including the Cackling Goose need a large body of water. If they are not pinioned, they will be able to fly away so an enclosure will be necessary. Although these are large birds and quite self-reliant, an effort should be made to protect them from predators especially if they have been pinioned. Cackling Geese come from breeding programs in captivity and may not have the same instincts and experiences with dealing with predators.

Diet: Cackling Geese are great foragers, and are vegetarian in nature. In the wild, they will eat grasses and berries, as well as aquatic roots, stems, and leaves. During winter, when vegetarian food sources are scarce, they will eat grains. And one can supplement their foraging with a waterfowl or game bird feed.

Miscellaneous Notes: In the wild, there are at least 5 different subspecies of Cackling Geese, and debating continues among ornithologists concerning overlaps between populations of Canada Geese and Cackling Geese.


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Cackling Geese

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