Patient of the Week: Cackling Goose Survives Tussle with Bald Eagle

By Ashley Lema, Wildlife Rehabilitator

On February 14, we received a Cackling Goose at our Wildlife Care Center. The good Samaritan who found the goose first noticed a large bird had landed in one of the trees on their 2 acre property. They quickly identified it as a Bald Eagle who appeared to be struggling! When they took a closer look, they saw that the eagle had a goose, who was flapping its wings in an attempt to escape. As they watched, a large truck came roaring down the road and apparently scared the eagle who then dropped the goose, and flew away into the distance. They never saw the eagle again, but what they did find was the small goose that ‘got away’, now nestled on the ground near some bushes, injured and unable to fly after the attack.

The good Samaritan brought the Cackling Goose to our Wildlife Care Center where we were able to stabilize the bird and tend to their injuries. The goose’s puncture wounds were consistent with what your body would look like after being grabbed by an eagle… As you may imagine, it’s a painful set of injuries.. Our veterinarian, Dr. Connie Lo, was able to close each wound with sutures. Although the wounds are healing nicely, the goose suffered a lot of internal damage–more specifically, air sac trauma, that may take awhile to heal. Bird anatomy is unique; they have several air sacs located in their body. If ruptured, it can lead to an accumulation of air in the subcutaneous space just underneath the skin. This can cause abnormal air flow and create air pockets that stretch the skin taut, often looking like a disfigurement. Depending on the location of the air pocket, the bird may also struggle to eat, breathe, walk, or fly.

Our veterinarian, Dr. Connie Lo, relieves some of the trapped air from under the skin using a medical technique.

The goose received a number of medications for their pain, to fight parasites, and to prevent infection, both bacterial and fungal while in care. The goose is currently in a large indoor enclosure, and is finally feeling well enough to eat on their own. We are doing everything we can to support the bird, but the prognosis is still guarded. 

Cackling Geese look like a miniature version of the Canada Goose, which is another goose species you may be more familiar with! Until 2004, Cackling Geese were considered a subspecies of the Canada Goose, but now are considered a distinct species–so don’t feel bad if you didn’t realize these were two different birds.

Cackling Geese spend their summers in the tundras of northern Alaska and Canada, where they breed and raise their babies–and then winter near marshes or other water sources in the Pacific states, and the southern Great Plains. Cackling Geese are quite similar to Canada Geese in terms of their plumage and are slightly larger than a Mallard. They are greyish- brown overall with a black neck and head, white cheeks and throat (“chinstrap”), and have white under their tail.

Want to see a Cackling Goose in the wild? Large flocks of Cackling Geese can often be found on Sauvie Island and in fields throughout the Willamette Valley, and if it is the right time of year in the Pacific Northwest (~Nov-March), you may spot some Cackling Geese mixed amongst the flocks of Canada Geese! You can also try to listen for their different calls, the Cackling Goose has a more high-pitched voice, than the more common honking of a Canada Goose.

The Cackling Goose in their initial indoor enclosure, standing near a bowl of water and dish of grains and greens.

How to Help

  • Our number one purpose is to help manage the impacts humans have on our wild neighbors, not to interfere with natural processes. This is an important reminder, especially heading into breeding season, when moms and dads have lots of mouths to feed. What we don’t like to see is people breaking up “fights” or shooing away predators–these animals have to eat too and these are completely natural interactions. However, if something like this happens, we also never want to leave an animal suffering–and if the predator is gone, then it is totally reasonable and humane to get that animal help. 
  • If you find an injured wild animal, the best thing you can do is contain the animal in a securely closed (but ventilated) box and keep the animal quiet and undisturbed until you can transport it to your closest wildlife rehabilitation facility. Do not offer food or water.


Here at Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Wildlife Care Center, we accept new patients from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day. You can also leave a message on our Wildlife Hotline at (503) 292-0304 or email and one of our solutions counselors will get back to you and provide advice for your specific situation. 


Unfortunately due to COVID-19 we had to operate our Wildlife Care Center this past year with about 20% of our normal staffing and with about a 25% increase in our annual patient admissions. We were left with the difficult but necessary decision to discontinue providing follow-up updates on patients brought into our center so that we could focus on the daily care of the animals. And while we simply cannot write a story about each animal, our goal for this fresh and bright new year is to show you what we can: in the form of a weekly patient update! Check in every Thursday for our “Patient of the Week”; with information on the species, the circumstances that brought the animal in, and preventative advice so you can be a better steward for our wildlife!

If you’d like to contribute to the Wildlife Care Center, please consider making a donation here. Your support helps us save lives.