Duck Duck Goose

My nervous tick is indicating it is about time to put out another bird post!  Unfortunately, the one I have teed up for today is one I’ve kind of been dreading.  Not that it a terrifying bird or anything (in fact it is quite visually appealing), but rather the offshoots of the Goose are difficult to ID with any certainty.  Once there’s crossbreeding with the Canada Goose and domestic geese you never know what you are going to get – from there, the mutations just get beyond levels of truly classifying.  This is possibly the case here, but based on some serious research, there might be a check here after all.

For reference, focus on the LARGER birds in the images – there was a smattering of Mallards hanging around that looked quite content in the midst of the larger flock.  These shots were actually taken by the side of the road on our way back from Wildcat Den State Park near Muscatine, Iowa.  Linda had always been wanting to take me there so took her up on it one weekend we were free (geesh, probably a year or two ago).  If you have never been there it is similar to Starved Rock in the features, but actually better – for one thing they have way less graffiti all over the place which always make me sick every time I journey up to Starved Rock.  That is one of the few uses of drones or cameras that I condone if that will curtail that crap.  So, on our way back, I noticed a nice collection of Geese and Ducks hanging out enjoying the nice weather.

Hit the jump to read a lot more about these birds and a few others I shot at the same time

I immediately knew these were going to be difficult to identify, but figured they made for a good composition and I can always just refer to them as the Domesticated Goose. When they finally made their way into the digital darkroom it occurred to me that these seemed a little more uniform that standard domestics – again, you really never know what is going to come out of that genetic soup.  One thing for sure, they had a stockier neck on them and a broader breast than the Canada Goose (almost used Canadian Goose, but my brother has cured me of that error).  Throw in the Mr. Obvious orange coloring instead of black on the bill and feet.  In addition, these two did not sport any white outline on the eye but had the white outline at the bill base.  Here is a group shot for comparison.

Of special note, is both of these and a few around them looked almost identical which led me to think it might have been an actual breed.  To Google we go!  From a similarity perspective, the Greylag Goose looked pretty close.  This is an Old World Goose per our friends over at Wikipedia (link here). They have similar coloring with the orange and brownish feathering, no outline on the eye and does look like they have the white border on the bill.  From a cursory view, the white outlines in the body are more defined in the Greylag than my specimens. It should be noted, this species isn’t even listed in my Stokes or my Sibley Guide.  What both of those do look like is the Greater White-Fronted Goose (Wikipedia link here).

Now that does look about dead on!  The Summer territory fits the area they were shot in and these do have the more muted white on the feathers.  No white outline on the eye and does have the white outline on the bill.  They also sport the heavier neck which was pointed out earlier.   Our friends over at Birds of North America have a pretty nice collection of various Geese (link here).  Based on those samples the lean is still to the Greater White-Fronted variety.   The Carolina Birds Org site brought up the option of a Lesser version but I dismissed that because those have the eye outline – this is why this was referred to so many times earlier.  However, they do have a few shots of the Greylag that does look similar.  The Bird Point calls out the Greylag (link here), but on close inspection those are missing the white outline on the bill.    Anybody have any angst about calling this a Greater White-Fronted Goose (if so it will be an new check in the Bird List!)

We now turn our attention to another specimen that was shot at the same time.  the first set was on one side of the road and this particular Goose like bird was hanging out on the other side with another set of Canada Geese.

I showed this to a friend of mine at work and his impression was that it was a Leucistic Goose.  I had never heard of this so did some digging.   Apparently Leucistic is variation on albino in which there is still some pigmentation – thus the greyish coloring and the muted orange on the legs and bill.  One thing for sure is it does not have the features in the initial set of pictures – the neck is definitely closer to the Canada Goose dimensions along with overall body structure.   Oh, and it likes to ham for the camera.

Probably could have lightened the next shot up a little bit but really liked the nice little tilt of the head – work it for the camera!  The one feature that stands out in this Goose is the white eyeliner.  This is a trait of the Lesser White-Fronted Goose.  Based on the reference at Wikipedia, it doesn’t really possess the strong neck and darker coloring that bird apparently possesses (link here).  If you look close it does have the white bill base, but that is definitely more dominant in the true Lesser.

I could be convinced either way, but right now just putting this down as a hybrid cross with the Canada Goose or a Leucistic variety.

So there was another specimen there that showed even more muted colors and one I feel is a better example for the Leucistic tag.  Clearly more uniformly lacking pigment even on the bill and legs.

I’ll leave you with a shot that could have been a contender if it wasn’t for failure to check the frame for any unwanted elements.  Their pose was perfect with that parental “Got my eye on you” look and perfectly symmetrical with their poses.  Bad Bri, Bad Bri!  One of the problems with shooting with the big glass is sometimes the close distracting items are hard to see.  If the duck background hadn’t been there I’d likely just shop it out, but as soon as I take that out, I have to take out the rest of the duck and try to paint back in the grass background.  A lot of work for a shot I could have corrected in the field instead – besides, I clipped the near birds foot.

With that, calling it a post.  Definitely an image heavy post, but wanted you to see the different variations.  Now time to go rest the legs, they had QUITE the workout this morning (post foreshadowing) and are screaming for some attention.

2 thoughts on “Duck Duck Goose”

  1. Well, I was sure leaning toward the Greylag Goose rather than the Greater White-Fronted Goose because a) most of the latter have a lot of white at the base of their beak, b) the former are described as larger, similar to the size of a Canada Goose rather than a Mallard, and c) to be contrary. But after you pointed out that the feathers on the Greylag Goose show a regular pin-striping (piping) that these do not, I am agreed that these are Greater White-Fronted Geese.

    What a confusing mess these geese species are!

    Thanks for the pics introducing me to two breeds of geese as well as a new word: Leucism.

    Ron

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  2. Thanks for taking the time to weigh in! As you found out, there is a WIDE variety of information on the topic of domestic geese and the official species. I think the heart of the issue is these geese get around. Beginning to think that anything that looks like a goose or walks like a goose or honks like a goose is fair game which just drives the varieties through the roof. You are correct, the white piping on the bill is definitely more dominant in the Internet samples I found but with that said I’ll state for the record that many of the references on Google images are completely wrong so that element left me skeptical. However, one aspect that the Greylag has (that you mentioned) is the pin-stripping which was the tipping point for me to go with the GW-F Goose.

    Glad you enjoyed the post, I do try to give a variety on here and since my readers are choosing to spend their precious time reading my word spillage I like to leave them with something new/interesting!

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