The Cackling Goose is a newly-recognized full species. Formerly it was considered a small subspecies of the Canada Goose. The plumage of the Canada Goose and Cackling Goose are very similar. Cackling Geese have have an overall smaller body size. Common Canada Geese average a 60″ wingspan and weigh around 9.8 lbs; Cackling Geese have a wingspan averaging 43″ and weigh just around 3.5 lbs. The bill of the Cackling Goose is also proportionally smaller compared with the head, which is more round in shape.
Besides the physical differences, the breeding range of the Cackling Goose is further north and west than the Canada Goose.
In late March, during a Loon-finding trip with Lake-Cook Audubon, I had my most recent Cackling Goose sighting at the Prairie Crossing subdivision. Cackling Geese pass through the area regularly during migration, so I was surprised when my entry into eBird triggered a question from a volunteer regional reviewer. Good thing I had pictures. 🙂
The Cackling Geese were very cooperative, hanging out with larger Canada Geese for easy identification and comparison. The water at Prairie Crossing was full of cute waterfowl that afternoon, also hosting Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck and Pied-billed Grebe.