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December 2022

Vol. 50, No. 6

Tricky Birds: Winter Geese

Sebastian Jones

Left to right: Cackling and Canada Goose. Photograph by Sebastian Jones.
Figure 1. Left to right: Cackling and Canada Goose. Photograph by Sebastian Jones.

For the inaugural edition of this semiregular column, we will be tackling a staple of winter birding in Massachusetts, the separation of pairs of tricky geese: Canada (Branta canadensis) versus Cackling (Branta hutchinsii), Snow (Anser caerulescens) versus Ross’s (Anser rossii), and Greater White-fronted (Anser albifrons) versus Pink-footed (Anser brachyrhynchus).

What follows is one way to go about identifying these birds. It is one of the most useful methods and one potentially least likely to result in error. When faced with a golf course or agricultural field littered with hundreds of mostly Canada Geese, there are some helpful ways to winnow out the pool of possible candidates, even when a single trait may be insufficient to ultimately make a positive identification.

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