Bit of Cheek

We were checking out the Berneray (Uist) machairs on Friday and checking some Barnacle flocks for ringed birds. No joy there, but a brief view of a white chin strap rather than a white cheek prompted further investigation – interrupted by a dash to Lochmaddy so colleagues could catch the ferry east.
I headed back and relocated the bird and rattled off a series of photos. The initial shout of Canada was clearly a ‘shougly-peg’, however it didn’t fit any goose species clearly – not even one of the multitude of Canada Goose forms
So what was it? Firstly it was very small and compact – 10% and more smaller than its companion Barnacles. The head too was dinky and it was slight browner, rather than being grey black and white. The neck was short and it ‘hoovered’ as it feed – rarely ever looking up. The black neck stopped short of the Barnacles pattern and that white chin strap wasn’t. Close inspection, and virtually impossible to see in the field, was the fact it had a chin strap outlining the white cheeks in black. This was beyond Canada goose but did hint at Taverners (among other forms)
The diminutive size suggested otherwise – Taverners is large than Barnacle so a hybrid could presumably not be smaller.
A bit more memory raking and a theory was coming together. A small Canada Goose has appeared on Uist, and Berneray, in several recent winters since 2003. I am not aware of any photos of it and it has been hard to pin down. I saw it best way back in 2004 and it has been suggested as a ‘hutchinsii’ Richardsons Canada Goose. A reasonable assumption is that this year’s bird is offspring from that returner as a result of a pairing with Barnacles in Arctic Canada.
A range of photos from Berneray are attached with comments in the titles.

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2 Responses to Bit of Cheek

  1. Ashley Howe says:


    I have recently been to Islay, and I was told by someone on the island (can’t remember who now) that they had also had a couple of presumed richardson’s canada x barnacle hybrids. Unfortunately we didnt see them as they appeared to have already departed…so possibly one of your birds.

    Certainly looks interesting though!!


  2. bruebirder says:

    some interesting comments and expansion on the hybrid debate here:

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