Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2010-10

Common name:

Cackling Goose

Scientific name: Branta hutchinsii
Date: March 7, 2010
Time: 1-3 p.m.
Length of time observed: On and off for 2 hours

1, but see additional comments and photos

Age: Unknown
Sex: Unknown
Location: Warren, west side of 5900W. 1/2 mile north of 12th Street
County: Weber
Latilong: Viewed From N41deg15min25.60sec W112deg07min22.36sec
Elevation: 4219 feet
Distance to bird: 100-150 feet
Optical equipment: 8x42 binocs; 85 mm spotting scope w/20-60x zoom eyepiece
Weather: intermittent rain
Light Conditions: light overcast
Description:        Size of bird: One of the smallest geese present, but larger than Mallards that were also present
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Waterfowl
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Black, white, gray
(Description:)            Bill Type: Waterfowl
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Bird among the smallest of the many Branta geese present. Compact. Small, triangular black bill, although not an equilateral triangle--slightly longer on culmen and lower mandible than where bill met face.  Forehead angled up from bill toward crown at greater than 45 degrees to rounded angle in front of eye. Crown proceeded up from there, in a straight line rather than rounded, to another rounded point above and behind the eye. Crown did not appear rounded at any time. White cheek patch was small relative to the size of patch on Canadas. Black eye. Black gular stripe present and visible to a small extent in profile view. Black neck. Strong white neck-collar. 

Body dark gray (not brown) with breast a slightly (not much) lighter shade of gray. No purple sheen. White under- and uppertail coverts; black tail. Black legs and feet.

I failed to note if there was black below bottom edge of white neck-collar or the pattern of wing covert edging.

(see photos)

Song or call & method of delivery: None heard.
Behavior: Swimming with other Branta geese, also feeding on grass while strolling with a relaxed flock. Lots of arriving and departing geese during the observation period.
Habitat: Swampy oxbow surrounded by pastures, feedlots, agricultural fields.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Not a Canada Goose: Review bird did not show smoothly curved crown tapering into extended bill of Canadas; crown was angled, forehead steep, bill was short. Review bird's breast was very dark in comparison to Great Basin Canada Geese present. Review bird was among the smallest geese present (other apparent Cacklers, likely B.h.hutchinsii and minima), and somewhat larger than Mallards present, perhaps the size of a Ross's Goose.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Only B.h.taverneri: a little, assuming I ID'd the birds I saw correctly. None with other Cackling subspecies.
B.canadensis: extensive, but didn't pay much attention to them until Cacklers regained species status.
References consulted: Sibley, 2000; Mlodinow et. al. 2008.
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Kristin M. Purdy
Observer's address: 1961 Arapaho Circle, Ogden, UT 84403
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: David Wheeler reported 16 Cackling Geese, possibly all B.h.minima, from this location the previous day.
Date prepared: March 7, 2010
Additional material: Photos
Additional_Comments: Although I'm only submitting this record for one Cackling Goose, I believe I also saw 2-3 minimas and five or six hutchinsiis. Several of the photos show several of the birds I believed to be hutchinsiis. I concentrated on the small dark goose with the strong white neck-collar for this record. 

The photos submitted with this record may only help support the Cackling Goose ID due to their quality; however, several features of this bird led me to the surprising possibility that this could have been the unlikely B.h.leucopareia. While I understand the documented limited winter range of this subspecies in Pacific coastal states, the bird showed several features that might be termed typical of leucopareia, rather than minima: small and dark, but lacking a purple sheen on the breast; steep angled forehead to a rounded point in front of the eye and a second rounded point above and behind the eye, and gular stripe visible in a relaxed profile view. I will never know for sure. I returned to the spot twice on Monday, March 8, and there were few geese of any description present.