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Cackling or Canada Geese? Berkeley California USA

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Old Sunday 10th December 2017, 22:09   #1
timholland
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Cackling or Canada Geese? Berkeley California USA

Hi all,
I'm sure this is a pretty common one to come through the forum...
I saw two geese this morning that were sort of associating with a large flock of Canada Geese, but sort of separate. To my eye, they had a somewhat shorter neck and relatively smaller bill than the Canadas, so I wondered if they were Cackling Geese. I still have quite a bit of trouble with these. Photos are attached - if anybody has an idea, please let me know! And if you are able, letting me know HOW you know would be great!
This was taken this morning (Dec 10) in Berkeley, northern California.
Thank you!
Tim
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Old Monday 11th December 2017, 04:34   #2
tom baxter
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the birds in this picture are about as intermediate as it gets, showing a mixture of traits between Canada and Cackling. I would probably call them Canada geese without more evidence supporting Cackling, but I will share my thoughts a little more:

there are a number of Cackling traits including squarish heads, brown chests and smallish bills. If you had any other photos, it is possible that the length of the primaries could help determine the species. As far as I know Cackling have longer primary feathers as they are longer distance migrants than Canada Geese. I am not seeing any hint of a pale "necklace" which is a strike against Cackling but does not rule it out.

These two species give most people trouble, but maybe someone with more experience/knowledge can weigh in here. I would consider myself an advanced birder but by no means an expert on Canada/Cackling Goose and subspecies. I'd be interested to hear too if anyone can conclusively identify these two.
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Old Monday 11th December 2017, 16:00   #3
birdmeister
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tom baxter View Post
the birds in this picture are about as intermediate as it gets, showing a mixture of traits between Canada and Cackling. I would probably call them Canada geese without more evidence supporting Cackling, but I will share my thoughts a little more:

there are a number of Cackling traits including squarish heads, brown chests and smallish bills. If you had any other photos, it is possible that the length of the primaries could help determine the species. As far as I know Cackling have longer primary feathers as they are longer distance migrants than Canada Geese. I am not seeing any hint of a pale "necklace" which is a strike against Cackling but does not rule it out.

These two species give most people trouble, but maybe someone with more experience/knowledge can weigh in here. I would consider myself an advanced birder but by no means an expert on Canada/Cackling Goose and subspecies. I'd be interested to hear too if anyone can conclusively identify these two.
I agree that they don't look like straightforward Cackling Geese. I would leave them as Cackling/Canada, leaning more towards Canada.
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Old Monday 11th December 2017, 16:10   #4
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The bill looks a bit long for Cackling.
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Old Monday 11th December 2017, 16:47   #5
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The likeliest candidates are either the largest Cackler subspecies (B. h. taverneri) or the smallest Canada (B. c. parvipes) and on the basis of the photo I wouldn’t want to say which.

Lots of good info here on Cackler subspecies in general and on the taverneri/parvipes problem in particular—
http://www.utahbirds.org/RecCom/IDhe..._Goose-NAB.pdf
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Old Monday 11th December 2017, 17:44   #6
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I'd go for Canada, the bills strike me as large; the birds are also very dark, so I'd be thinking of B. c. occidentalis or B. c. fulva.
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Old Monday 11th December 2017, 18:59   #7
timholland
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Thank you for the input everybody. I will leave it at Cackling/Canada (for reference - http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S41016856 ).

Thank you for some very useful information and discussion!
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Old Tuesday 12th December 2017, 08:07   #8
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Check out Sibley's article on these types of tweeners:
http://www.sibleyguides.com/2014/12/cackling-ish-geese/

For what it's worth, these are definitely closer to the migratory Canada subspecies than to Cackling.
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Old Wednesday 13th December 2017, 00:24   #9
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These look like pretty typical Canada Geese to me. They aren't as huge and long-billed as the resident birds you see breeding in much of the US, but they fit the migratory subspecies of Canada fine.
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