Relatives staying for the Holidays

As the holidays fast approach, we must honor those grand traditions of putting up decorations, sending out photos of your “antler and sweater” festooned family, and eating all the delicious holiday meals. Most importantly, we must revel in the sudden uptick of stress induced letters to Dear Abbey about the headache of relatives staying over for the holidays! I kid, of course, but lest you think this is solely a hominid problem, I give you exhibit A…

Cackling Goose


At today’s workday over at Paepae O He’eia, we noticed a lone Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii). We were told that it had been hanging out at the fishpond for a good week and a half already. Cackling geese nest in the far north of the new world and are occasional winter visitors here in Hawai’i. Not sure if the lack of a white collar is diagnostic, but I’m assuming this is subspecies minima. With the mallard in the foreground as scale, we can see that this species is much smaller than the ubiquitous Canadian Goose (Branta canadensis) of the mainland.

With its smaller size, a cackling goose can easily be mistaken for the Nene (Branta sandvicensis). One easy way to tell the relatives apart is by looking at the neck…


… on adult nene, the white patch goes all the way down the neck with a distinctive “furrowing” pattern. (The 3 other nene pictured are subadults).

By the way, Nene ohana, the cackling goose was eating all the food for the ducks and chickens at the fishpond. Hope your pantry is stocked! Don’t say that I didn’t warn you…

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