Branta leucopsis x hutchinsii
Status: Accidental in winter
Record: A mounted specimen (photograph above) was shot from a flock of about 40 “Hutch” Canada Geese (now known as Cackling Goose, Branta hutchinsii) 2 Nov 1968 in Otoe Co (Cortelyou 1969).
Comments: The specimen cited above was thought to be a Barnacle Goose rather than a hybrid by most if not all authors until it was identified as a hybrid by Stephen Brenner and confirmed “albeit subtle” by Steven Mlodinow in 2021.
Until recent years, it was assumed that reports of Barnacle Goose, especially in the Interior and on the Great Plains, were referable to released or escaped birds from collections. However over the last 10-20 years reports of wild Barnacle Geese in North America, particularly in the eastern US, have increased, as has the likelihood that some Barnacle X Cackling Goose hybrids may involve genes from wild Barnacle Geese.
A genetic study on about 1000 white-cheeked goose tail fans conducted in Canada to determine if DNA analysis could be used to track these species for hunting control purposes found that two Cackling Goose tails had Barnacle Goose mitochondrial DNA (Jim Leafloor, Steve Mlodinow, pers. comm.). Dr. Leafloor noted that this may have resulted from an escaped Barnacle Goose, but also a wild bird living with Cackling Geese in the high arctic.
Photograph (top) of a Barnacle x Cackling Goose (hybrid) mount of a bird shot in Otoe Co 2 Nov 1968 (Cortelyou 1969).
Cortelyou, R.G. 1969. Barnacle Goose taken in Nebraska. NBR 37: 2-3.
Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2021. Barnacle x Cackling Goose (hybrid) (Branta leucopsis x hutchinsii). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org
Updated 14 February 2021