Conservation status The distinctive subspecies on the Aleutian Islands of Alaska was almost exterminated by foxes introduced to those islands for the fur trade. After removal of foxes from some islands, the geese made a good comeback. Subsistence hunting may be a problem for some populations in western Alaska and elsewhere.
Family Ducks and Geese
Habitat Tundra in summer; lakes, marshes, and fields in winter. Nests on tundra in western Alaska and north-central Canada, as well as barren uplands on Aleutian Islands. Winters on southern lakes and marshes, often foraging in open prairies or farm fields.
The white-cheeked geese of North America were long considered to make up just one highly variable species, Canada Goose. It was not until 2004 that four of the smallest forms were formally recognized as comprising a distinct species. As their name suggests, Cackling Geese have much higher-pitched voices than the familiar honking of Canada Geese.

Feeding Behavior

forages mostly by grazing while walking on land; also feeds in water, submerging head and neck, sometimes up-ending. Feeds in flocks at most seasons.


4-6. White, soon becoming nest-stained. Incubation is by female, 25-27 days, with male standing guard nearby. Young: Parents lead young from nest 1-2 days after hatching. Young are tended by both parents, but find their own food from the start. Age at first flight about 6-7 weeks.


Parents lead young from nest 1-2 days after hatching. Young are tended by both parents, but find their own food from the start. Age at first flight about 6-7 weeks.


almost entirely plant material. Feeds on a wide variety of plants. Eats stems and shoots of grasses, sedges, aquatic plants; consumes many cultivated grains, mainly waste grains left in farm fields.


May mate for life. Nest site (chosen by female) is usually near water, on open tundra or sometimes on cliff ledge. Nest (built by female) is a shallow scrape filled with plant material gathered from immediately around the nest, and lined with down feathers.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Download Our Bird Guide App


All populations are strongly migratory. Those nesting in Alaska winter mostly in California, while those from the central Canadian Arctic winter mostly on the southern Great Plains and near the western Gulf Coast.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

Learn more

Songs and Calls

Honking, high-pitched cackling. A higher “alto” honk to the Canada Goose “tenor.” Often a high pitched “cackling”, from which its common name is derived.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Cackling Goose

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate Threats Near You

Climate threats facing the Cackling Goose

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.