For a couple of weeks now I’ve been observing a large flock of geese on my way to work. They have been reliably found in a field between the Picha family farm stand and Sterino Brothers farms in Puyallup. There have been at least 300 and maybe as many as 500 present each time I’ve gone by.
At first I took them to be all Canada Geese, mostly of some of the small subspecies such as that known as “Cackling” Canada Geese. Just by chance I learned how completely out of touch I am with the world of bird science by reading a post to the Tweeters mailing list I subscribe to. Cackling Geese are now considered a separate species!
Cackling Geese are actually nearly identical in their markings to Canada Geese. The white “chin strap” and black head are iconic. The mainly grey-tan coloration of the body and wings initially appears the same. The most obvious difference to the untrained eye is size. “Cacklers” seem closer in size to a Mallard than a Canada Goose. But there are other differences. The shape of the head, length and shape of beak, the color of the breast feathers. Canada Geese are fairly light breasted. Cackling Geese are noticeably darker breasted. See the picture and compare the size, head, and beak of the Canada Goose at the back to the Cackling Geese in front.