Posted by: atowhee | November 8, 2020


There were dozens of Cackling Geese grazing on a lawn along Salem’s Fairview Industrial Drive this morning. Over 100 good reasons to never use any toxic chemicals on lawn or grass. There was some cackling, naturally. One collective noun for goose is “gaggle,” also a word used for a collection of news reporters. But for this species, cackling, as in witch’s cackling, could lead us to think perhaps “bewitchment” of Cacklers would fit. Some of them breed on the Aleutian Islands or islands in Arctic Ocean so perhaps when they number over 100, an “ocean” of geese? “Archipelago”? “Chain”? They graze like sheep, clipping grass close to the ground so “flock” certainly fits as might “a plump”. They breed in Arcitc trundra tough they leave before snow gets too deep, could they be a “drift” and landing en masse an “avalanche”? In this morning’s instance, I might simply say “a lawn of geese”.

In flight you might use “skein”, “team”, or “wedge” of geese. Often I find “V” is really all you need.

Coming in for a landing, social distancing not recommended. Togetherness is safer wherever eagles there be.

These geese were not particularly skittish. They were feeding right along the road until a couple arrogant hominids on bicycles sped toward them, insisting on control of the paved sidewalk so the geese politely moved off onto the grass. While I watched the original gathering grew as a couple dozen more dropped out of the sky. This patch of available food was just south of the electrical sub-station along Fairview Industrial.

The white neck ring occurs on a small proportion of the Cackler population.

These small geese can weigh about a third as much as our local Canada Geese. Migrant Canada Geese, of course, are smaller than the golf course variety that is here year round. Local Canadas can weigh 14 pounds or more, like over-fed shoppers at a big-box store. The Duskys weigh less and have long migrations. A Cackler is from 3 to 7 pounds. There are four sub-species. Their wingspan is between three and four feet, a few inches less than a red-tail.
This species is widely hunted and the population now is believed to be above 3 million though it dropped to about 100,000 fifty years ago. They are hunted in both Oregon and California.
The Willamette Valley is a crucial wintering ground for the western Cackler population. Most Cacklers of the world’s move south through the Midwest with a southernmost wintering population on the east coast of Mexico. They breed only in North America. Many other northerly breeding species predominately use the Mississippi fly-way, from Sandhill and Whooping Cranes to Redheads to Baird’s Sandpipers.


  1. Harry Look at the Bewick’s Wren with a spider I shot today at ATW.

    BTW I’d never noticed the comb-like bill protrusions of Northern Shovelers like I saw the morning @ ATW


    • Yes, their beaks are used similar to filters on baleen whales and the beaks of filter-feeding avocets

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