Cackling Goose

Until recently, considered a Canada Goose Subspecies

Branta hutchinsii

The newly recognized Cackling Goose is a smaller version of the Canada Goose. Formerly considered the smallest subspecies of one variable species, recent work on genetic differences found the four smallest forms to be very different. These four races are now recognized as a full species: the Cackling Goose. It breeds farther northward and westward than does the Canada Goose.

Interesting Information

  • The Cackling Goose was long considered just a small race of the Canada Goose. The smallest four of the eleven recognized races were recently determined to be distinct enough to be their own species. Cackling Goose includes the races known as Taverner's, Richardson's, Aleutian, and Cackling geese. Confusingly, the "Lesser Canada Goose" is still a race of the Canada Goose.

  • Although most Cackling Geese nest along ponds and streams in the tundra, the Aleutian form nests on south-facing turf slopes above rocky, cliff-bound shorelines. The Richardson's form can nest in colonies of several hundred pairs on cliffs and steep rock slopes.

  • The smallest form of the Cackling Goose is only a quarter the size of the "Giant Canada Goose" subspecies.


Adult Description

  • Length Range:   56-76 cm (22-30 in)

  • Weight:   951-3001 g (33.54-105.9 oz)

  • Size:   Large (16 - 32 in)

  • Medium-sized to small goose.

  • Black head.

  • Bill small and triangular.

  • Long, black neck.

  • White chinstrap.

  • Light tan to brown breast feathers.

  • Brownish back.

  • White undertail.

Sex Differences

Sexes similar.


Juvenile similar to adult.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Breeds in coastal marshes, along tundra ponds and streams, and steep turf slopes above rocky shores.


Grazes on grass. Tips up to reach aquatic vegetation. Feeds in flocks in fields.


Entirely herbivorous. Eats variety of plant species and parts, especially grasses, sedges, grain, and berries.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
    Subfamily: Anserinae
Genus: Branta
Species: Branta hutchinsii
    Subspecies: Branta hutchinsii hutchinsii
  Branta hutchinsii leucopareia
  Branta hutchinsii minima
  Branta hutchinsii taverneri
  Branta hutchinsii asiatica

Similar Species

  • Canada Goose nearly identical, but larger, and with proportionately larger bill.

  • The blue form of the Snow Goose has an all-white head.

  • Brant has a dark chest and white limited to the neck, not the cheek.

  • The rare Barnacle Goose has an entirely white face, a black breast, and a gray and black barred back.

  • Canada Goose X domestic goose hybrids have a wide variety of different markings, including extended white on head, red on bill, and red legs.

Bird Sound

Noisy. Call a loud honking or a high-pitched, squeaking cackle.

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution