Cackling Geese

Cackling Goose with Canada GooseCackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) with Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) behind it –  Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1500, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Last week I spotted a bird that isn’t usually here in Utah this late in migration, a Cackling Goose. I was getting set up to photograph some Black-necked Stilts when an goose caught my eye in a flooded field. I stopped looking at the stilts and focused on the goose. As you can see in the photo above the goose in the front is much smaller than the goose in the back and its bill is shorter too.

Cackling Goose with mallard behind itCackling Goose with mallard behind it – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light 

In the image  above the goose is in front of a male mallard and it is not much larger than the duck. It was already late in the day so the light was not great. The images I took weren’t the best but I was trying to get images of it with other birds in the frames so I could compare the sizes.

Cackling Goose walking along a flooded fieldCackling Goose walking along a flooded field – Nikon d200, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The goose swam towards the edge of the water  and walked up in the ground giving me a better look at the length of the legs and the lower body.

Cackling Goose foragingCackling Goose foraging – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

I suspected that the bird was a Cackling Goose so I posted a few images of it on the UBIRD discussion forum and several people there told me that it was what I had suspected. A lifer bird for me.

I would love to see more Cackling Geese, hopefully in great light.


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. Congrats on the lifer, Mia. This bird looks so much like the Canada goose, except for the short neck. I just looked it up on Cornell’s site. It must have been migrating through Utah to breeding grounds farther north? I probably would never see one in Indiana.

  2. Very cool pics, great comparisons! And congrats on the lifer!

  3. Mia,

    The geese pictures are amazing. I haven’t seen the cackling goose yet either. I’ve been following your blog for a while now and had comment on how much I enjoy reading your stories. If you’re ever back in the Tampa bay area for a visit I’d love to do a meet-up, maybe at Fort Desoto.


    • Dina, When I come back to Tampa for a visit I will let you know. Thanks for following my blog, I really enjoy “talking” about birds, photography and critters!

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