CACKLING GOOSE (Branta hutchinsii) (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Cackling Goose is very similar to the Canada Goose, just smaller. The head, bill and neck are black and there’s a white chin strap. Body plumage is mainly grey and the rump is white. The legs and feet are dark grey. The length of this goose is about 25 inches (63 cm).
NAME: The English name ‘Goose’ would have different origins, such as Dutch and German ‘Gans’, Old Norse ‘Gas’, even Spanish ‘Ganso’. Then this would relate the name to Latin ‘anser’ for ‘goose’.  The name ‘Cackling’ refers to the bird’s call. The Latin genus name ‘Branta’ comes from Old English and Old Norse and means ‘burnt’, in reference to the dark plumage of the bird. As for the species name ‘hutchinsii’, it was given in honor of Thomas Hutchins, an American geographer.
HABITAT: Tundra coastal marshes, streams and ponds.
DIET: Mainly vegetation. When on migration, cackling geese will feed on leftover grains in fields. During nesting they will add insects and arthropods to their diet for extra protein.
NESTING: Cackling geese pairs are formed for life. Nests are usually built in a shallow depression in an elevated area near the water. The nest is lined with materials from plants and the bird’s own down. About 6 eggs are laid.
DISTRIBUTION: The cackling goose breeds in northern Canada and Alaska. It migrates through the rest of Canada and the USA except the eastern part of those countries. Some individuals will winter on Pacific islands such as Hawaii (see photos below), where it is a rare visitor.
ON PEI: The cackling goose is a rare visitor on Prince Edward Island during its spring and fall migrations. It would then likely be associated with the Canada goose flocks.
CONSERVATION: Because of over-hunting and loss of habitat over several decades in the past, the cackling goose numbers have declined until conservation measures were implemented in its native range. Their population now appears stable.
NOTES: The cackling goose can be difficult to identify when they are with Canada geese. An additional problem is that there are large cackling geese and small Canada geese.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Canada Goose. Actually the cackling goose formerly was thought to be a subspecies of the Canada goose, but with genetic analysis it was found to be distinct enough to earn its own species title, although with several ‘races’ or subspecies.

Cackling goose, James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, Oahu - © Denise Motard
Cackling goose, James Campbell
National Wildlife Refuge, Oahu
Cackling goose and Hawaiian coot, James Campbell NWR, Oahu, HI - © Denise Motard
Cackling goose and Hawaiian coot
James Campbell NWR, Oahu, HI