Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2005-07

Common name:

Cackling Goose

Scientific name: Branta hutchinsii
Date: April 10, 2005
Time: 5:00-6:00 pm
Length of time observed: 1 hour
Number: 1
Age: adult
Sex: unknown
Location: Oxbow overlook of Cutler Reservoir
County: Cache
Latilong: 3
Elevation: 4,500 ft
Distance to bird: 200 meters
Optical equipment: Swarovski 20-60x ATS 65mm HD Spotting Scope
Weather: partly cloudy, 55 deg.
Light Conditions: diffuse, sun was behind a cloud during the observation period
Description:        Size of bird: about 60% size of Canada goose
(Description:)      Basic Shape: short necked goose
(Description:) Overall Pattern: black neck, white neck band, white cheek patch, gray-brown barred body, undersite white from legs through undertail coverts, black legs and tail
(Description:)           Bill Type: black, small, stubby, almost triangular goose bill
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
This small goose was likely of the Aleutian
subspecies (B. h. leucopareia).

The bird was a smallish goose with superficial coloration much like the resident Canada goose (subspecies B. canadensis moffitti).

Size: About 60% the body size of resident Canada geese.

Head: The head was rather square in shape, with a sharp angle between the forehead and bill. The head was black with a white cheek patch that extended from under the chin to behind the eye. The patch was slightly narrower than the associated Canada geese. Bill: The bill was stubby, almost triangular in shape, not unlike a Ross' goose bill. The culmen was straighter than the culmen of associated Canada geese, and was only about half as long as these Canada geese.
It was black in color.

Neck: The neck was short, about half the neck length of the associated Canada geese. It was seen fully extended both in flight and on the ground. The neck was black in color to near the attachment with the body where a pronounced and complete white neck ring was present (1/4-1/2 inch thick with neck extended). The white was angled slightly upward toward the front, and was bordered on the bottom by a black band (about 1/2 inch thick).

Chest and belly: The chest below the black band below the white neck band was gray-brown, lighter than the back, but darker than the chest of the associated Canada geese. The color gradually darkened down to the legs to become similar in color to the back. The belly behind the legs, vent and under tail coverts were white.

Back and wings: The back and wings were finely barred dark and lighter gray-brown, similar in color and pattern to the associated Canada geese. The primary tips were nearly black.

Tail: The tail was short and black. It did not extend to the wing primary tips.

Legs: The legs were black.

(see photos)

Song or call & method of delivery: none
Behavior: The bird was first seen flying with 4 Canada geese. It landed and spent much of the observation time feeding and loafing. Nearby Canada geese occassionally snapped at and chased this smaller goose.
Habitat: pasture and flooded pasture
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
The only similar species in color is the recently conspecific Canada goose. The general color patterns of these species is distinct from all other geese species. The observed goose, however, had a much shorter neck (about half the length of the associated resident Canada geese (subspecies B. canadensis moffitti). The bill was much stubbier (half as long as the resident Canada geese) with a straighter culmen. The complete white neck band was bordered below with a narrow black neckband before the lighter belly, a mark that is usually only found in the Aleutian subspecies of cackling goose (B. h. leucopareia) and not in Canada goose. The bird was also much smaller than the associated Canada geese (roughly 60% as large). The size difference was seen both in flight and on the ground. This small size of the observed bird was too small to be a small Canada goose.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have seen several individuals of the Aleutian subspecies (B. h. leucopareia) on Attu Island, Alaska.
References consulted: Sibley Guide to Birds; National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America 3rd Ed.; Identification of Canada and Cackling Goose, Updated October 7, 2004 by David Allen Sibley; The New Goose by Mark Stackhouse
Description from: Notes taken at time of sighting
Observer: Ron Ryel
Observer's address: 1649 N. 1000 E., North Logan, UT
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Larry Ryel, Melanie Spriggs, Keith and Judy Archibald, Bryan Dixon, Jean Lown
Date prepared: April 10, 2005    (General Public)
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: