Documentation of Cackling Goose (Ridgway's)

Observer Information

Reporter:  Cathy Sheeter  2245 S Waco St,   Aurora, CO  80013
Other Observers: 

Species, Date, Time and Location Information

Species:  Cackling Goose (Ridgway's)
First Date/Time:  1/23/2015 3:01:00 PM
Last Date/Time:  1/23/2015 3:23:00 PM
Duration (total time in view):  22 mins
County:  Arapahoe
Specific Location:  Location Not Listed
Number:  1
Age:  Immature
Sex:  Unknown
Plumage:  Other/Unknown


On ice on the pond

Viewing Conditions

Optics:  carl zeiss conquest hd 10x42 binoculars and sony a77ii camera with tamron 150-600 mm lens
Distance:  100 feet
Light:  heavy overcast

Description of the Bird

I initially noticed this bird for its very small size and darker chest color than the nearby Richardson's Cackling Geese.  The bird was a fairly uniform dark brown, the chest also dark brown, but with a bit of sheen to it.  The head was small and round in shape and the bill exceptionally stubby and small.  The bird, itself, seemed at least 25% (or more) smaller than the Richardson's that were nearby.    It was not very active in the time that I watched it, getting a drink once and the rest of the time mostly resting or sleeping with its head up.  Through out this duration the head shape never varied from round.  The uniform dark tone to the bird and slight variation in belly feather pattern seemed to suggest a first winter bird, rather than an adult.

Similar Species Discussion

It was obvious that the bird was a Cackling Goose and not a Canada Goose from the tiny size, short neck and very tiny bill.

Elimination of other Cackling Goose subspecies as follows:

Richardson's: The bird was obviously smaller in size (since Richies were right there to compare it to), with a round rather than rectangular head shape.  The bill was quite a bit stubbier when compared to Richies.  The breast was also much bronzier in color.

Taverner's: Again size (Tav being usually slightly larger than Richie) was obvious.  The head shape - the bird lacked the sloping forehead of Taverner's.  The chest was more of a chestnut brown than the more typical Tav gray-brown.

Aleutian: This bird did not show any indication of a white neck ring or a gullar stripe.  Aleutian are also larger with a head shape that goes more straight up from the bill, not as round as this bird.  The bill is longer on Aleut.  

Resources Used

I sent my photos to Steve Mlodinow and am familiar with his article on Cackling Geese ( and have read it numerous times.  Steve also sent the photos to Bill Tweit and Bob Flores.  Bill and Bob both live in Washington and have extensive experience with the Ridgeway's subspecies.  All three were in agreement that the bird looks great for a first winter minima. 

Previous Experience

This is the third minima that I have found in Colorado.  The other two were adults, which are more distinct in their plumage.  I was not versed on the plainer looking first year plumage (though the physical structure is the same and had read that they did not show the colorful look of the adults), so appreciated the confirmation from experts (Steve, Bill and Bob) to confirm that the bird's plain packaging was within expected norm for a first year bird.


Notes made DURING observation

Materials Available

Photographer: Cathy Sheeter

Photos |


Date Documentation Submitted

1/27/2015 6:59:00 PM
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Location Map

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