Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"White-cheeked" Geese

Having seen a Cackling Goose in Burlington with Hannah and Cathy this past Saturday, it reminded me of something: in the uncertain realm of taxonomy, there is perhaps no greater conundrum than the "White-cheeked" Geese.

"White-cheeked" Geese
(Canada Goose & Cackling Goose)

Since 2004, the AOU has formally recognized two species of "White-cheeked" Goose (Canada Goose and Cackling Goose) and the research cited in support of that decision recognized 11 extant subspecies (7 for Canada Goose and 4 for Cackling Goose). However, according to more recent publications, the 2 species/11 taxa approach vastly underrepresents the amount of variety within this population complex. Compare, for example, the approach of H.C. Hanson (2006) which recognizes 6 species and 217 subspecies! Consider also the approach of B.W. Anderson (2010) which recognizes 15 species and 181 subspecies!! It is research like this that leads to misgivings about the essentialist/typological assumptions embedded within birding culture.

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