Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2011-12

Common name:

Cackling Goose

Scientific name: Branta hutchinsii
Date: February 27, 2011
Time: 4:00 pm
Length of time observed: 45 min
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Sex: Unknown
Location: Salt Creek WMA
County: Box Elder
Latilong: N4138'03.18"N W11215'41.41"W
Elevation: 4254 ft
Distance to bird: 125 yds
Optical equipment: 85 mm scope w/20-60x zoom eyepiece
Weather: Clear and Sunny, 27
Light Conditions: Bright, no clouds, sun at my back.
Description:        Size of bird: Mallard
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Waterfowl
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Black head and neck, brown body, white underparts aft of legs
(Description:)            Bill Type: Nibbling
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Obviously a white-cheeked goose:
Black beak, eye, legs. Beak was small and triangular, although not equilateral; a bit longer on the culmen and lower bill than the base. Slightly concave culmen. No droopy tip, as on some large Canadas.
Black except for white cheek, which was limited in comparison to the many Canadas present. Black chin strap covering approximately one-third of underside of chin. Forehead rounded smoothly from base of beak. Slight point on back of crown akin to placement of point on a Lesser Scaup's head.
NECK: Black and relatively short; blended into dark brown body with no clear delineation between the two colors. No white neck ring.
BODY: Darkest goose of hundreds present; overall, about a shade or two lighter than a Hersey's milk chocolate bar. No pale breast as in some other Cacklers or Canadas. Breast had a very warm brown tinge; perhaps this would be called a purple sheen by other observers. Mantle, scapular and wing covert feathers looked dark dusky brown with a diffuse tan edge. Pure white behind legs, under- and uppertail coverts. Black tail tip.
Song or call & method of delivery: None heard.
Behavior: Foraged in shallow wetland with other Branta geese by stretching head and neck forward, dipping mostly only bill into water and nibbling while walking. Sometimes stood quietly with grass strands hanging from beak. Stretched a leg once or twice; preened occasionally.
Habitat: Shallow wetland surrounded by agricultural land.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Important to assign this one to subspecies. Very dark body color, limited white cheek with chin strap present, small size, short bill and relatively rounded forecrown all pointed toward Branta hutchinsii minima.
Not a Canada Goose: Bird was only as big as a Mallard in close comparison multiple times. No Canada subspecies is that small. Very dark body color matched only by other hutchinsii subspecies or by B. canadensis occidentalis, which is a much larger bird than a Mallard.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Several hutchinsii, taverneri, minima, and even one possible leucopariea in Utah since the split from Canada. Thousands of Canadas.
References consulted: Sibley
Description from: Notes taken at time of sighting
Observer: Kristin Purdy
Observer's address: Ogden, Utah
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: None.
Date prepared: February 27, 2011
Additional material:  
Additional_Comments: Maybe it's time to remove this species from the review list.