Canada Goose (Greater Canada Goose) Branta canadensis

Canada Geese have recently been split into two species. The BOU include the larger forms (canadensis, fulva, interior, maxima, moffitti, occidentalis and parvipes) as races of 'Greater Canada Goose' and the smaller forms (hutchinsii, leucopareia, minima and taverneri) as races of 'Cackling Goose' (sometimes known as Lesser Canada Goose). Confusingly the term 'Cackling Goose' has previously been used to refer only to the race minima, while 'Lesser Canada Goose' is often used for the race parvipes which BOU includes under Greater Canada Goose! It is no exaggeration to say that the Canada Goose complex is a mess in terms of taxonomy, nomenclature and identification. David Sibley has written a useful article on their identification.

Wild Canada Geese from North America are now identified in the UK every winter. Some photos of such birds appear at the bottom of this page. First are some photos of feral birds - these are thought to be closest to the race maxima but may not be pure examples of this form.

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Canada Geese, Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 8th March 2008

 

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Canada Goose, Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 16th August 2008

 

Canada Goose, Leziate Pits (Norfolk, UK), 2nd January 2005

 

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Canada Goose, Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 1st April 2012

 

Canada Goose, Lynford (Norfolk, UK), 27th February 2011

 

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Canada Goose, Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 3rd May 2008

 

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Canada Geese, Titchwell (Norfolk, UK), 7th June 2004

 

Canada Goose, Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 26th April 2004

 

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Canada Geese, Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 26th April 2004 (both different birds from the one above)

 

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Canada Goose, Monterey Peninsula (California, US), 30th April 2005

 

Canada Goose, Lackford Lakes (Suffolk, UK), 2nd June 2007

 

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Canada Goose, Abberton Reservoir (Essex, UK), 21st August 2004. The slightly pale eye-ring on this individual is not typical of the species, although often present on hybrids.

 

Canada Goose, Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 8th March 2008

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Canada Goose gosling, Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 21st June 2008

 

Canada Goose with goslings, Minsmere (Suffolk, UK), 1st May 2000

 

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Canada Goose, Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 9th February 2013

 

Canada Goose, Strumpshaw Fen (Norfolk, UK), 7th March 2015

 

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Canada Goose, Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 25th August 2008

 

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Canada Geese, Holme (Norfolk, UK), 11th September 2010

 

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Canada Goose, Caerlaverock (Dumfries & Galloway, UK), 29th December 2005

 

leucistic Canada Goose, Lynford (Norfolk, UK), 22nd February 2008

 

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leucistic Canada Goose, Hockwold (Norfolk, UK), 2nd May 2009 - aberrant birds with pale on the head occur not infrequently. Such birds are often reported as hybrids, but they are in fact merely leucistic. Some have seemed to have a smaller and more rounded head compared to accompanying Canada Geese but I don't know why that should be and wonder if it could have been an illusion due to the white face?

 

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leucistic Canada Goose, Zwolle (Overijssel, Netherlands), 2nd February 2014

 

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leucistic Canada Goose, Bittering (Norfolk, UK), 25th September 2013

 

leucistic Canada Goose, Caerlaverock (Dumfries & Galloway, UK), 28th December 2018

 

The following individual, presumably relating to a wild vagrant, was considered by some to be a Todd's Canada Goose Branta canadensis interior. Other observers believed it to belong to the race parvipes. In this photo the neck is contracted - in life it often appeared rather longer-necked than this photo suggests.

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Canada Goose (race interior or parvipes), N of Stanhoe (Norfolk, UK), 8th January 2004

The next bird was reported as a Cackling Goose (race hutchinsii - Richardson's Canada Goose) when it was found the previous day, but upon review of his photos the finder apparently decided thgat it might in fact be Taverner's (race taverneri). When I saw it next day I only got brief views before the it was flushed by a Peregrine, and for most of the time its head was down. The brief views I got suggested it was on the large side for hutchinsii and the neck seemed a bit too long, so I supported the view that it could be taverneri. However my views were not conclusive at all and in hindsight I think it's very likely that it was the same bird that has subsequently been reported regularly in the Solway as a Todd's Canada Goose, race interior.

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possible Todd's Canada Goose (with Barnacle Geese), Skinburness (Cumbria, UK), 28th December 2012 - the head and neck just show in the left hand photo but sadly this bird spent nearly the whole time of observation with its head down; before decent views or photos could be obtained the whole flock was flushed by a Peregrine

 

I assume it was the same bird present again next winter where I managed better views - and indeed it did appear to be a Todd's Canada Goose, race interior.

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Todd's Canada Goose (with Barnacle Geese), Cardurnock (Cumbria, UK), 28th December 2013