BARNACLE GOOSE

BARNACLE GOOSE(Branta leucopsis) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Barnacle Goose adult has a black head, with a black neck and upper breast. Forehead, face and throat are white. Back and wing feathers are grey with white edging. Tail is black with white coverts. Flanks are barred white and light grey. Under parts are white. There is a black line between bill base and eye. Bill is short and black. Eyes and legs are black. Goslings are grey. Sexes are similar. Bird length is about 60 cm (24 inches) long.
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Branta-leucopsis
NAME: ‘Barnacle’ would stem from an old tale (from the 1500s) that the bird hatched from a ‘barnacle’, a type of shellfish (Choate). ‘Goose’ would have different origins, such as Dutch and German ‘Gans’, Old Norse ‘Gas’, even Spanish ‘Ganso’. Then this would relate the name to Latin ‘anser’ for ‘goose’. Latin genus name ‘Branta’ comes from Old English and Old Norse and means ‘burnt’, in reference to the dark plumage of the bird. Latin species name ‘leucopsis’ means ‘white face’.
HABITAT: Fields, grasslands.
DIET: Various plant material (roots, mosses, sedges, grass).
NESTING: Nest is built on mountain cliffs on small islands near the coast, often nests in colonies. Around three to eight creamy eggs are laid, incubated by female. Goslings are led to the water soon after hatching, can feed themselves but protected by parents. If you want to watch the terrifying ‘fall’ of a gosling off a 400-foot cliff to the shore below, where its parents are waiting, click here.
DISTRIBUTION: Barnacle goose breeds on east coast of Greenland, on Svalbard and Novaya Zemlya (Russia). It winters in the UK, Ireland and along the coasts of the Netherlands, Denmark and northwest Germany.
Distribution Map: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Branta_leucopsis – /media/File:Branta_leucopsis_map.png
ON PEI: Does not breed on Prince Edward Island, sightings listed as ‘accidental’ so far. See note below on bird vagrancy.
CONSERVATION: Population stable, currently not at risk.
NOTES: This goose is popular with zoos and other collectors, and some individuals eventually escape and form a feral population, which may wander as far away as Canada.
Vagrancy: In biology this means an animal going way outside its normal range. For birds, this can happen when there are storms and they get blown off course. On other times, the bird simply wanders in a different direction than usual. Here’s an article about vagrancy in birds.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Brant, Cackling Goose
REFERENCES: https://www.npolar.no/en/species/barnacle-goose/ (Norwegian Polar Institute)
https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Branta_leucopsis/ (University of Michigan Zoology)
http://www.luontoportti.com/suomi/en/linnut/barnacle-goose (Nature Gate Finland)
https://www.spitsbergen-svalbard.com/spitsbergen-information/wildlife/barnacle-goose.html
http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/655/overview/Barnacle_Goose.aspx
https://app.bto.org/birdfacts/results/bob1670.htm (British Trust for Ornithology)

Barnacke Goose - Denmark - Apr. 2014 - photo by Andreas Trepte
Barnacke Goose – Denmark – Apr. 2014 – photo by Andreas Trepte
Barnacle Goose pair with goslings - Vaxholm, Sweden - June 2016 - photo by Bengt Nyman
Barnacle Goose pair with goslings – Vaxholm, Sweden – June 2016 – photo by Bengt Nyman
Barnacle Goose in flight - July 2006 - photo by Thermos
Barnacle Goose in flight – July 2006 – photo by Thermos
Barnacle Goose, front view - Helsinki - July 2010 - photo by Ludovic Péron
Barnacle Goose, front view – Helsinki – July 2010 – photo by Ludovic Péron
Barnacle Goose pair - around Vaxholm, Sweden - May 2016 - photo by Bengt Nyman
Barnacle Goose pair – around Vaxholm, Sweden – May 2016 – photo by Bengt Nyman

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