Wednesday, November 28, 2012

[Updated] Canada Geese at Sunset

Correction: This post has been amended to delete the erroneous identification of some of these geese as cackling geese, a smaller, shorter-necked, smaller-billed relative of the Canada goose. I am informed by one of my local birding mentors, Gene Bauer, that these are in fact simply shorter-necked Canada geese. The cackling goose is noticeably smaller in body, closer to the size of a mallard, and has a smaller, more pointed bill, and Gene tells me it would be highly unusual for us to see them in such large numbers as shown here.

I'd recently heard that hundreds of Canada geese have been gathering on the Superior Drive pond. Having taken a vacation day today, I was free to wander over that way as the sun was setting about an hour ago to see for myself.

Here's a view (above) of the east end of the pond, covered with geese and a few mallards. While I was there, many birds took to the air. Click on the photo below for a larger view of many dozens of geese in the air while dozens remain in the west end of the pond.

I noticed that many of the geese were actually cackling geese, which are smaller and have shorter necks than the Canada goose.  [See correction at top of this post.]

Here's a closer view (above). You can see both Canada geese (front right and left rear) and cackling geese (center) for easy comparison. Click on the photo to see it larger.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says of the cackling goose:
Formerly considered the smallest subspecies of one variable species [i.e., the Canada goose], recent work on genetic differences found the four smallest forms to be very different. These four races are now recognized as a full species: the Cackling Goose. It breeds farther northward and westward than does the Canada Goose.

There was a lovely milky sunset against which the skeins of airborne geese could be seen in silhouette. My camera battery was running low, so I turned for home.


Dan Tallman said...

The first sunset photo is particularly fine!

Penelopedia said...

Thanks, Dan! I did boost the color saturation on that one a bit, but did no other editing.