[CT Birds] Couple of Cacklers

greg hanisek ctgregh at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 18 22:25:44 EDT 2014

There's a bit of confusion afoot about the Cackling Goose situation in the Sherwood area in Westport. A Cackling Goose has been present and pretty easy to find there recently that fits the compact look of the typical Cackling Goose subspecies we get in the Northeast, Branta hutchinsii hutchinsii. However Mark Szantyr, armed as usual with heavy duty photo gear, found a second bird over the weekend and suspected it was a different subspecies, Branta hutchinsii taverneri. This western subspecies has been photo-documented twice before in CT, by Mark at the Lyman Orchard pond in Middlefield and by (I think) Frank Gallo in Westport. Mark checked in with a couple of our go-to Pacific Northwest Cackling Goose mavens, who regularly see and study multiple subspecies. These guys were confident about the 2 previous birds being Taverner's Cackling Geese, and they gave a thumbs up to this one as well. Mark photographed both of the ones currently at Sherwood, and among
 the less subtle of the differences is that the Taverner's is bigger than Hutchins, but still small enough to catch the eye of a careful observer. There are other differences, which one of the western guys, David Irons, spelled out in great detail for Mark in an email reply. I found this material difficult to handle because of length and didn't have any success trying to copy it into this email, but if anyone would like me to forward Mark's email with the reply and his photos let me know.

As an aside, I mention with some trepidation that one of the western guys suggested the smaller bird might even be an intergrade between hutchinsii and taverneri, something that we easterners should probably handle with great care, given that just dealing with subspecies needs to be done with a good deal circumspection. As my Polish great grandmother used to say (in Polish), "That's cutting the kielbasa pretty thin." Just keep in mind that they're first and foremost Cackling Geese, and dealing with them on the subspecies level is never as clear cut as dealing with them on the species level. And considering they were all considered to be subspecies of Canada Geese not that long ago, even the species designations require careful consideration. At the risk of repeating myself, it never hurts to say that a bird fits the criteria of a given subspecies rather than categorically stating that it is that subspecies. 

Greg Hanisek

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