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See “Current Issues” for information on Taxonomy of Cackling and Canada Geese.

There are 5 populations that contain Cackling geese within the AGJV:  Taverner’s, Cackling, Aleutian, and 2 populations that contain both Cackling and Canada geese: Tall Grass Prairie and Short Grass Prairie.

Cackling Goose

For general information on Cackling geese, see the attached links:

Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds

National Audubon Society   


Range map of Aleutian Cackling Geese
(from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Range map of Cackling Cackling Geese
(from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Range map of Shortgrass Prairie Cackling Geese
(from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Range map of Taverner's and Tallgrass Prairie Cackling Geese
(from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Cackling Goose

Current Status and Management Issues for Taverner’s Cackling Geese

This goose population has been partially defined through surveys, banding, and genetics studies; but further work is underway to accurately define its breeding grounds in Alaska.  The exact boundaries of the breeding range remain undetermined due to the close proximity, and possible overlap, of the breeding range of the similar-appearing lesser Canada goose.   Farther east it is not known where distribution of Taverner’s geese ends and that of Richardson’s goose begins.

Taverner’s Cackling geese winter with six other populations of white-cheeked geese that are similar in appearance.  Population levels of some of these geese are such that severe restrictions are placed upon hunting opportunities, and hunter check stations are used in western Oregon and southwestern Washington to closely monitor harvest of goose populations.  

From available information based on breeding ground surveys and harvest monitoring at check stations it appears this population is stable at this time.   

Current Status and Management Issues for Aleutian Cackling Geese

Cackling Goose The majority of the Aleutian Cackling goose population nests in the western Aleutian Islands (Alaska), with lesser numbers in the central Aleutians and very small numbers (<200) in the Semidi Islands.    The population had threatened/endangered status for decades but was delisted in 2001.  Non-native fox populations on breeding islands were the primary reason for poor recruitment in to the population.   Fox control and protection of wintering habitat in combination of hunting restrictions has brought this population up over 100,000 birds which is nearly twice the flyway objective.    A 14 percent annual growth occurred in this population from 1974-2004.  The population is so strong at this point that hunting seasons have resumed in California and Oregon.   

Banding and winter surveys have indicated that there are at least two distinct segments of Aleutian geese.  Geese from the western and central Aleutians winter primarily in the San Joaquin Valley in California, while geese from the Semidi Islands winter in coastal Tillamook County, Oregon.   However, there is some evidence that the two population segments are interacting more and may be mixing.   A genetics study is currently underway to look at this possibility.     

The capacity of public lands in migration and wintering areas to support this large and rapidly growing population is limited, especially along the northwest coast of California.  This places extra emphasis on the effects of goose foraging on private lands where geese conflict with agricultural interests.  While there are numerous government support programs available to improve fish and wildlife habitat on private lands, there are no such programs to maintain preferred habitats as they currently exist.  Also, changing agricultural practices and other land uses have the potential to negatively affect current migration and wintering areas.

Current Status and Management Issues for Cackling Cackling Geese

Cackling GooseHistorically, the Cackling goose has been considered the smallest subspecies of Canada goose.   Taxonomic and management relationships of cackling and other small geese have recently become more complex with the differentiation of small bodied (cackling) geese from large bodied white-cheeked (Canada) geese.  For management purposes, cackling geese are defined as the population of small-bodied geese nesting entirely on the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta of western Alaska.  Historically, nearly all cacklers staged in the Klamath Basin of Oregon and California during spring and fall, and wintered in the Central Valley of California.  Since the early 1990s, the majority of cacklers have wintered in western Oregon and southwestern Washington.   The reason for this dramatic redistribution on the wintering grounds is unknown.

The population status of the Cackling goose has been of concern to wildlife managers in the Pacific Flyway for many years.  Peak counts of Cackling geese from fall aerial surveys of the Klamath Basin documented a decline from over 400,000 birds in the late 1960s to less than 50,000 by the late 1970s.  Coordinated fall surveys in California and Oregon indicated a record low count of less than 26,000 Cacklers in 1984.

The steady decline of the population from the late 1960s to mid-1980s likely resulted from the combined effects of spring subsistence hunting in Alaska and sport harvest, primarily in California.    Representatives of management agencies, conservation groups, and hunters from Alaska to California began meeting in late 1983 to determine critical problems of geese nesting in western Alaska, agree on harvest restrictions, and to develop an intensive, broad-based conservation program.  The Hooper Bay Plan, signed in January 1984, was the progenitor of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Goose Management Plan which has guided harvest strategies and conservation efforts for cackling Canada geese for over two decades.    These cooperative conservation efforts have restored the cackling goose population to about 200,000 birds.

Current Status and Management Issues for Tall Grass Prairie Population Canada/Cackling Geese

Cackling Goose The Tall Grass Prairie population (TGP) of geese is comprised of  Canada and cackling geese that were previously considered to be a complex of two subspecies of Canada geese (lesser Canada goose and Richardson’s Canada goose).

TGP geese breed in the Canadian Arctic generally east of 105º West Longitude and north of 60º North Latitude including on Southampton and Baffin Islands. Historically they wintered on the coastal prairie of Texas northward through Oklahoma; however, their winter range in recent years has extended from the lower Rio Grande Valley in Mexico northward into South Dakota and eastward into southwestern Louisiana. Their primary migration routes are through Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan and the east-tier States of the Central Flyway. Important harvest areas are southern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan, North Dakota, and the "Low Plains" portions of Texas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Kansas, and Nebraska.

The breeding range of TGP Canada/Cackling geese was designated primarily on the basis of historical banding on wintering grounds and staging areas.  More recent neck-banding on the breeding ground has generally confirmed the population delineation. The winter and migrational ranges of TGP and Short Grass Prairie (SGP) geese overlap and there is a need to better define TGP migration and wintering areas from a breeding ground perspective.  

Current procedures for assessing the status of TGP geese involves surveys that generate a large:small white-cheeked goose ratio.  Estimates of the smaller white-cheeked goose numbers are estimated from counts of small white-cheeked geese in counties of each state designated as either TGP or SGP traditional use areas. Accurate large:small white-cheeked goose ratios are difficult to estimate because of insufficient sampling, and apparent shifts in composition within the winter range of both TGP and SGP birds.  Additionally, surveys are conducted on Baffin Island in late summer to estimate population trends in the far eastern portion of the breeding grounds.  Surveys across the TGP and SGP breeding grounds are being designed and implemented.  Environmental factors (snow cover, temperature, etc.) appear to be the primary influence on the annual production of TGP geese.  

The population objective for TGP geese is a three running average of 250,000 birds based on the Mid-winter Waterfowl Inventory.  The TGP population has exceeded this objective annually since 1997, with 3-year average estimates in recent years exceeding 500,000 birds.

 Cackling Goose

Harvest of TGP is estimated through harvest survey programs of both Canadian Wildlife Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Goose harvest estimates derived from mail questionnaires are proportioned in harvest by species based on samples of tail fans submitted by cooperating hunters.  Estimates of TGP harvest are then obtained by measurements from these tail feathers and information submitted on the location of the harvest (TGP vs. SGP range). 

TGP geese depend upon a wide array of key habitat types in three nations during their annual cycle.  Degradation of important habitats is a continuing problem and protection of wintering and staging areas need attention (e.g., Louisiana and Texas coastal marshes, Rainwater Basins, Platte River).  These habitats should be monitored, protected, restored, or enhanced as needed because human induced and natural changes to these habitats will continue.

TGP geese are a valuable resource and are highly prized as game birds and for viewing.   Recreational use and enjoyment are important values and strong motivation for managing these birds at optimum levels.  Maintaining the population at or above the objective level will permit this traditional use as well as provide other non consumptive recreational uses.


Current Status and Management Issues for Short Grass Prairie Canada/Cackling Geese

Cackling Goose These small Canada geese nest on Victoria and Jenny Lind Islands and on the mainland from Queen Maud Gulf west and south to the Mackenzie River and northern Alberta and winter in southeastern Colorado, northeastern New Mexico, and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.  Numbers of SGPP have remained relatively stable over the last 5 years averaging around 200,000 birds.  Work on the breeding ecology of SGPP has been very limited and needs to be expanded.  The potential impact of mineral extraction activities in Arctic and sub-Arctic areas and climate change on these birds is not well understood. Similarly, little work has been done on the ecology of these birds in the fall, winter and spring.  Ecological issues that affect SGPP during the non-breeding period are the same that affect other Arctic and sub-Arctic breeding geese.


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