Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cackling Geese At Van Cortlandt Park Bronx NY...

My curiosity got the better of me as I wondered about the low numbers of Canada Geese being reported from Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.  Having birded the Parade Grounds at VCP (Van Cortlandt Park) extensively, I knew from experience that Geese numbers could get as high as in the thousands in the winter. So the reports of 50 Geese on the field had me puzzled and I wondered what was happening on the field.  Was there some change to the field that the birds did not like?  Or were these birds being under reported.  With the pending snow to arrive on Tuesday, I decided to go Geese studying on Monday and I am glad that I did.

There were certainly more than 50 Geese on the Parade Ground Fields and I estimated the number to be about 2300.  Maybe they all just showed up after the reports of paltry numbers?? (I doubt that).  With a sizable flock to study, I was hoping that I would find something odd like perhaps a Cackling Goose.

Cackling Goose Center.  Note the smaller size with small bill.
Some of you may say to yourselves.  What is a Cackling Goose?  Well, Cackling used to be all lumped in with Canada Goose until there was a split in what I believe was the 45th Supplement to the AOU (American Ornithological Union) Checklist.  In other words, the Canada Goose race was divided to differentiate the large bodied interior and southern breeding species (Canada and its subspecies), from the small bodied tundra breeding subspecies (Cackling and its subspecies).

The Cackling Goose is made up of 4 subspecies that mainly breeds in the tundra.  B. h. hutchinsiiRichardson’s (or Hutchins’s), B. h. taverneriTaverner’s (Alaska) Cackling Goose, B. h. minimaCackling Cackling Goose and B. h. leucopareiaAleutian Cackling Goose – includes asiatica which is considered extinct.

Cackling Goose (Right) Cropped to give viewers a closer look at size in structure.
The expected vagrant Cackling here in the NE is the Richardson form of Cackling but I have been looking very carefully to see if any of the other subspecies type might show up.  In this flock, I found 2 definite Richardson form of Cackling Goose and a possible third.  The third bird, I did not get sufficient time to study it well or to get photos as it was flushed with some Canada Geese off the fields by an unleashed dog, which seems to be a regular thing that occurs on the fields despite the posted signs to keep dogs leashed. I have posted some photos for your viewing pleasure, which I hope helps in differentiating Cackling from Canada.

Cackling Goose (left) smaller than the larger Canada Goose.

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Anonymous said...

Great shots, Dude. CACG's seem to be showing up along the East Coast with increasing regularity. We've had at least 1-2 birds wintering on the Potomac just outside of DC the last two winters, and I've seen up to five at one time in the area. Here is one of them...http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaketrout/11676641756/


Excellent photos of the CACG Jake. I like the lighting on the subject. I wonder if they are showing up more or are more people paying attention to looking for them. I enjoy checking huge flocks of Canadas for their presence.