Barnacle Goose

Barnacle Goose

Key facts

Scientific name: Branta leucopsis

Status: Branta leucopsis

Breeding birds: 900 pairs

Wintering birds: 94,000

Conservation status: Amber

Length: 58 – 72 cm

Wingspan: 132 – 145 cm

Weight: 1300 – 2200 g


Adult barnacle geese have black crowns, necks and breast. Their upperparts are barred with grey and black. The underparts are much paler with slight grey bars and their rounded tail is black.

Barnacle geese have a white head with black crown and nape and their eyes are dark brown with a small black eye patch. Their bill, legs and feet are black. Males and females look similar except the male is slightly larger.

Juvenile barnacle geese are duller with a grey neck and the white parts of the head have grey flecks. They reach full size when they are 2 years old.


Female barnacle geese build the nest which is a shallow depression lined with grass, moss and down. They will also nest on the edges of cliffs to try and avoid predators.

Barnacle geese lay 3-5 white eggs which are incubated by the female for 24-28 days while the male guards the nest. Chicks have grey down when they hatch and are precocial and leave the nest soon after. They can feed themselves and are fully independent when they reach 45 days.

If the nest has been built on a cliff edge then the chicks must jump to the ground as they are unable to fly. This often causes injury or even death although a good number do survive.


Barnacle geese eat grass, stems, leaves and aquatic vegetation. They will also venture onto farmland to eat crops.

Barnacle Goose

Where to see them

Barnacle geese can be seen between October and March. The best place to spot them is on the Solway Firth in Scotland and England.


David Darrell-Lambert/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Medieval legend says that the barnacle goose was born from driftwood because it was not seen in the summer when it was supposedly developing under the water.

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