Invasive Species Compendium

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Branta hutchinsii

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Datasheet

Branta hutchinsii

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Branta hutchinsii
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Aves
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • B. hutchinsii has been introduced to several countries but has not yet been recorded forming breeding populations that are separate from those of B. canadensis in the same areas.

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Branta hutchinsii (cackling goose); adult. This species has a rounder head and a shorter, stubbier bill than the larger Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis). Morro Strand State Beach, Morro Bay, California, USA. November 2012.
TitleAdult
CaptionBranta hutchinsii (cackling goose); adult. This species has a rounder head and a shorter, stubbier bill than the larger Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis). Morro Strand State Beach, Morro Bay, California, USA. November 2012.
Copyright©Michael 'Mike' L. Baird-2012/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Branta hutchinsii (cackling goose); adult. This species has a rounder head and a shorter, stubbier bill than the larger Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis). Morro Strand State Beach, Morro Bay, California, USA. November 2012.
AdultBranta hutchinsii (cackling goose); adult. This species has a rounder head and a shorter, stubbier bill than the larger Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis). Morro Strand State Beach, Morro Bay, California, USA. November 2012.©Michael 'Mike' L. Baird-2012/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Branta hutchinsii (cackling goose); adult, close view of head. This species has a rounder head and a shorter, stubbier bill than the larger Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis). Morro Strand State Beach, Morro Bay, California, USA. November 2012.
TitleAdult
CaptionBranta hutchinsii (cackling goose); adult, close view of head. This species has a rounder head and a shorter, stubbier bill than the larger Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis). Morro Strand State Beach, Morro Bay, California, USA. November 2012.
Copyright©Michael 'Mike' L. Baird-2012/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Branta hutchinsii (cackling goose); adult, close view of head. This species has a rounder head and a shorter, stubbier bill than the larger Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis). Morro Strand State Beach, Morro Bay, California, USA. November 2012.
AdultBranta hutchinsii (cackling goose); adult, close view of head. This species has a rounder head and a shorter, stubbier bill than the larger Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis). Morro Strand State Beach, Morro Bay, California, USA. November 2012.©Michael 'Mike' L. Baird-2012/via flickr - CC BY 2.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Branta hutchinsii (Richardson, 1832)

Other Scientific Names

  • Branta canadensis (Linnaeus, 1758)

International Common Names

  • English: cackling Canada goose; cackling goose; lesser Canada goose

Summary of Invasiveness

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B. hutchinsii has been introduced to several countries but has not yet been recorded forming breeding populations that are separate from those of B. canadensis in the same areas.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Aves
  •                     Order: Anseriformes
  •                         Family: Anatidae
  •                             Genus: Branta
  •                                 Species: Branta hutchinsii

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The cackling goose Branta hutchinsii has recently been separated as a full species from its close relative the Canada goose B. canadensis (Banks et al., 2004; Sangster et al., 2005). The taxonomy of this species pair is highly complex, however, and further taxonomic refinements may follow from ongoing research. As many as five species and 186 subspecies have been claimed (Hanson, 1997). The cackling goose as currently defined includes the five races hutchinsii, taverneri, minima (the original ‘cackling Canada goose’), leucopareia and asiatica, although the last of these was poorly differentiated from leucopareia and is believed to be extinct. The races parvipes (retained within B. canadensis) and taverneri, which frequently intergrade, were collectively referred to as ‘lesser Canada goose’; this common name is sometimes used for B. hutchinsii as a whole, but is confusing and is not recommended.

The split is observed here. As far as possible, this account refers only to the species hutchinsii, although much of the literature from which it is drawn treats canadensis and hutchinsii together under canadensis.

Description

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B. hutchinsii are very similar to B. canadensis races in plumage pattern but occupy the small and dark end of the range of variation. Like that species they have a dark brown body, a black head and neck and a white chin-patch. Many B. hutchinsii have a white mark or line between the black neck and the brown breast, as do some B. canadensis. The bill of B. hutchinsii is proportionately shorter than that of B. canadensis, as is the neck. Calls are higher-pitched and the race minima in particular sounds ‘cackling’. For further details, see for example Sibley (2004).

Distribution

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There is no systematic information on where B. hutchinsii are held in captivity. Partly in consequence, information is likely to be poor also on where isolated escapes or releases have occurred. Since the split from B. canadensis is so recent, it is likely that occurrences of B. hutchinsii are not yet being fully reported.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

JapanAbsent, formerly presentNativeBanks et al., 2004Native wintering population is extinct
-HokkaidoAbsent, formerly presentNativeBanks et al., 2004Native wintering population extinct
-HonshuAbsent, formerly presentNativeBanks et al., 2004Native wintering population extinct

North America

CanadaLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-British ColumbiaLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-ManitobaLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-Northwest TerritoriesLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-NunavutLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-OntarioLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-SaskatchewanLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-Yukon TerritoryLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
GreenlandLocalisedNativeFox et al., 1996
MexicoLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
USALocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-AlaskaLocalisedNativeStackhouse, 2004
-ArkansasLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-CaliforniaLocalisedNativeStackhouse, 2004
-ColoradoLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-ConnecticutLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-FloridaPresent, few occurrencesNativeBanks et al., 2004
-HawaiiPresent, few occurrencesNativeBanks et al., 2004
-IdahoLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-IllinoisLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-IndianaLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-IowaLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-KansasLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-LouisianaLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-MainePresent, few occurrencesNativeBanks et al., 2004
-MassachusettsLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-MichiganLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-MississippiLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-MissouriLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-NebraskaLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-New JerseyLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-New YorkLocalisedNative
-North CarolinaLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-North DakotaLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-OklahomaLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-OregonLocalisedNativeStackhouse, 2004
-PennsylvaniaLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-South CarolinaPresent, few occurrencesNative
-South DakotaLocalisedNative
-TexasLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005
-UtahPresent, few occurrencesNativeStackhouse, 2004
-WashingtonLocalisedNativeStackhouse, 2004
-WisconsinLocalisedNativeAbraham, 2005

Europe

IcelandPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive NOBANIS, 2008
IrelandPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced Not invasive Cramp and Simmons, 1977Potential occurence of vagrants from native range is awaiting ratification
NetherlandsLocalisedIntroducedVoslamber et al., 2007@ 200 pairs in 2005
Russian Federation
-Russian Far EastAbsent, formerly presentNative Not invasive Banks et al., 2004Breeding population of Commander and Kuril Islands (race asiatica) is extinct
Svalbard and Jan MayenPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive NOBANIS, 2008
UKPresent, few occurrencesIntroducedBanks et al., 2008Potential occurence of vagrants from native range is awaiting ratification

Oceania

Marshall IslandsPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive BirdLife International, 2009
New ZealandAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced1920 Not invasive Lever, 2005Probably taverneri

History of Introduction and Spread

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The racial identity of early releases of ‘Canada goose’ to New Zealand was not recorded, but in 1920 ten birds probably of the race taverneri, now assigned to B. hutchinsii, were released in North Canterbury (Long, 1981). These birds probably intermixed with existing and subsequent imports of larger, B. canadensis races and are no longer recognisable as B. hutchinsii.

A number of Canada goose races are likely to have been introduced to the UK and elsewhere in Europe, where they have intermixed freely. During the 1980s it is reported that 40 small-race birds were released in Britain (Blair et al., 2000), presumably attributable to the presently defined B. hutchinsii
 
The B. hutchinsii population of the Netherlands was estimated at 200 pairs in 2005 (Voslamber et al., 2007) but it is not known to what extent these birds constitute a breeding population that is isolated from B. canadensis.
 
Vagrant individuals from North America occur regularly in Iceland, and have reached Svalbard and possibly Jan Mayen, as well as Hawaii and other Pacific islands. Presumed vagrants also occur annually in the UK and Ireland but the status of these birds as vagrants from the native range is awaiting ratification by the relevant authorities. 

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Ireland Escape from confinement or garden escape (pathway cause) No Occurences may all relate to vagrants from native range
Netherlands   Yes Banks et al. (2008)
New Zealand 1920 No Long (1981)
UK   Escape from confinement or garden escape (pathway cause) No Blair et al. (2000) Some occurences are probably of vagrants from native range

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of this species is unclear. In areas where B. canadensis is already present, it is perhaps likely that mixed pairing would occur with that species. This would be a conservation issue in areas where B. hutchinsii would interbreed with native B. canadensis.

Habitat

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B. hutchinsii nest on high-arctic tundra. They winter mostly in traditional sites that offer suitable grazing and water bodies that act as refuges and loafing sites.

Whereas flocks of B. canadensis may damage plants by overgrazing or trampling, it is perhaps less likely that B. hutchinsii, being smaller, less abundant and more tied to natural habitats, would cause significant damage

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Principal habitat Natural
Riverbanks Principal habitat Natural
Wetlands Principal habitat Natural
Cold lands / tundra Principal habitat Natural
Freshwater
Irrigation channels Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Lakes Principal habitat Natural
Reservoirs Principal habitat Natural
Rivers / streams Principal habitat Natural
Ponds Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The wide variability in size and plumage within the Canada/cackling species group is likely to have some genetic basis as well as environmental causes, but it is insufficient to prevent the remixing of the races where they are brought into contact by translocations and introductions.
 
Reproductive Biology
 
B. hutchinsii are not known to differ significantly from B. canadensis in its reproductive biology. B. canadensis become sexually mature after two years but usually begin breeding at 3–5 years. They form monogamous pairs that may remain together for many years. A clutch of typically 4–7 eggs is laid in a scrape on the ground, filled with grass, moss or twigs and lined with soft feathers and down. Nests are typically close to water and often on islands or raised ground that affords a good lookout for potential predators. Both sexes defend the nest vigorously. Once the eggs hatch the female leads the chicks quickly to water. For further details, see for example Kear (2005).
 
Physiology and Phenology
 
As a specialist breeding bird of high latitudes, B. hutchinsii has only a brief summer period in which to arrive, raise young and depart for snow-free wintering grounds. Breeding begins in mid May. The young fledge in only six weeks, as opposed to 8–9 weeks in the larger B. canadensis. Adults undergo a complete moult during late summer, during which they become flightless, and both adults and young are fit to undertake migration or dispersal by autumn.
 
Nutrition
 
Canada geese feed largely by grazing on grassland and crops. Their food is almost exclusively plant matter including roots, rhizomes, tubers, stems, leaves, fruits and seeds (Cramp and Simmons, 1977). This summary, describing canadensis and hutchinsii together, is likely to apply exactly also to hutchinsii alone.

 

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Ds - Continental climate with dry summer Preferred Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)
ET - Tundra climate Preferred Tundra climate (Average temp. of warmest month < 10°C and > 0°C)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
24-72

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Alopex lagopus Predator not specific

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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B. hutchinsii have long migrations that take them to more northerly breeding locations and more southerly wintering grounds than the B. canadensis. The races leucopareia and minima migrate from Alaska across the northern Pacific to winter in inland California, Oregon and neighbouring states of western USA. More easterly breeders migrate through the Great Plains to winter in south-central USA and adjacent northeast Mexico.

Accidental Introduction
 
Accidental introduction of B. hutchinsii will have occurred wherever the species is kept in captivity, as occasional individuals have escaped from wildfowl collections, or as young hatched within the collection but left unpinioned have dispersed away.
 
Intentional Introduction
 
Intentional introductions of B. hutchinsii have been made as an ornamental species for parkland lakes or as intended quarry for shooting.

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Cultural/amenity Positive and negative

Economic Impact

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Whereas B. canadensis can have severe economic impacts through air strikes and agricultural damage, the smaller and less numerous B. hutchinsii is likely to have much lower impacts in these areas.

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Biodiversity

Introduced B. hutchinsii interbreed readily with other races of their own species and with B. canadensis, and so could have significant impact on biodiversity when introduced within the native ranges of these species in North America.

Social Impact

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It is possible that B. hutchinsii may have some social impact through fouling or disease transmission, but no such impacts have yet been clearly identified.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Long lived
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Gregarious
  • Has high genetic variability
Impact outcomes
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
Impact mechanisms
  • Hybridization
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field

Uses

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Economic Value

B. hutchinsii
is hunted along its migration flyways and in its wintering grounds in North America.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Distinguishing B. canadensis from B. hutchinsii and potential hybrids with that species is complex and difficult, given the wide range of variation in the size and plumage tones of both species (Wilson, 2003; Sibley, 2004).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Prevention

SPS measures

Most European countries and North American states and provinces have laws intended to control trade in non-native species and the circumstances in which they can be released. These should cover non-native geese, but may either exclude translocations within a country or trading zone, or be difficult or impossible to enforce where no import/export controls apply.
 
Public awareness

There is clearly a need for increasing public awareness of the dangers of introducing non-native geese to new areas and of translocating them within areas where they already occur.

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Further and more detailed information is needed on the impacts of B. hutchinsii, to strengthen the case for control measures and to discourage further introductions and translocations.

References

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Abraham K, 2005. Cackling Goose, NOT new to Ontario. OFO News, 23(1):2-6. http://www.ofo.ca/reportsandarticles/cacklinggoose.php

Banks AN; Wright LJ; Maclean IMD; Hann C; Rehfisch MM, 2008. Review of the status of introduced non-native waterbird species in the area of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement: 2007 update. Review of the status of introduced non-native waterbird species in the area of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement: 2007 update. Thetford, UK: British Trust for Ornithology, unpaginated. [BTO Research Report 489.]

Banks RC; Cicero C; Dunn JL; Kratter AW; Rasmussen PC; Remsen Jr JV; Rising JD; Stotz DF, 2004. Forty-fifth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds. Auk, 121:985-995.

BirdLife International, 2009. Species factsheet: Branta hutchinsii. Species factsheet: Branta hutchinsii. unpaginated. http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=32141&m=0

Blair MJ; McKay H; Musgrove AJ; Rehfisch MM, 2000. Review of the status of introduced non-native waterbird species in the agreement area of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement. Review of the status of introduced non-native waterbird species in the agreement area of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement. Thetford, UK: British Trust for Ornithology, unpaginated. [BTO Research Report 229.]

Callaghan DA; Green AJ, 1993. Wildfowl at risk, 1993. Wildfowl, 44:149-169.

Cramp S; Simmons KEL, 1977. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa: the birds of the Western Palearctic. Volume I. Ostrich to ducks. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Fox AD; Glahder C; Mitchell CR; Stroud DA; Boyd H; Frikke J, 1996. North American Canada geese (Branta canadensis) in West Greenland. Auk, 113:231-233.

Hanson HC, 1997. The giant Canada goose. Carbondale, Illinois, USA: Southern Illinois University Press, 280 pp.

Kear J, 2005. Ducks, Geese and Swans. Volume 1. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Lever C, 2005. Naturalised birds of the world. London, UK: T & AD Poyser.

Long JL, 1981. Introduced birds of the world. Newton Abbot, UK: David & Charles.

NOBANIS, 2008. North European and Baltic Network on Invasive Alien Species. http://www.nobanis.org

Sangster G; Collinson JM; Helbig AJ; Knox AG; Parkin DT, 2005. Taxonomic recommendations for British birds: third report. Ibis, 147:821-826.

Sibley DA, 2004. Identification of Canada and cackling goose. Identification of Canada and cackling goose. unpaginated. http://www.sibleyguides.com/canada_cackling.htm

Stackhouse M, 2004. The new goose. The new goose. Utah, USA: Utah Bird Records Committee, unpaginated. http://www.utahbirds.org/RecCom/NewGoose.htm

Voslamber B; Jeugd H van der; Koffijberg K, 2007. [English title not available]. (Aantallen, trends en verspreiding van overzomerende ganzen in Nederland.) Limosa, 80:1-17.

Wilson A, 2003. Identification and range of Canada goose (Branta canadensis) subspecies. Identification and range of Canada goose (Branta canadensis) subspecies. unpaginated. http://www.oceanwanderers.com/CAGO.Subspecies.html

Links to Websites

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Organizations

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World: BirdLife International, Wellbrook Court, Girton Road, Cambridge, CB3 0NA, UK, http://www.birdlife.org

Contributors

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31/08/09 Original text by:

John Marchant, British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, IP24 2PU, UK

Distribution Maps

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