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Brent Goose

Brent Goose

At a glance

The Brent goose, sometimes known as the brant goose, is a medium-sized goose with a thick neck and short, stubby bill. There are 3 sub-species; the ‘dark-bellied’ (B. b. bernicla) which is found in Siberia and Europe, the ‘pale-bellied’ (B. b. hrota) found in Canada and Greenland, and the black brant (B. b. nigricans), found in northeast Siberia and northern Canada. Both the dark bellied brent goose and pale bellied brent goose migrate to the he UK for winter, while the black brant is a rare, but annual vagrant. A fourth subspecies, the ‘grey-bellied’ as yet has no formal taxonomic status and may be a hybrid of the pale-bellied and black brant.

Key facts

Scientific name: Branta bernicla
Status: Winter visitor

Wintering birds: 102,000

Conservation status: Amber
Length: 56 – 62 cm
Wingspan: 110 – 120 cm
Weight: 1.3 – 1.6 kg
Typical lifespan: 11 years

What do brent geese look like?

Adult brent geese have dark grey-brown upperparts with fine, pale edges to the feathers. The flight feathers and undertail coverts are black. On the underparts, the belly and flanks are dark grey-brown with pale edges on the upper flanks, and the breast is black. The vent, undertail coverts, and rectrices are white, and the outermost tail feathers are white.

The head and neck are black, and there is a white patch on the side of the upper neck. The bill is black, the eyes are dark brown, and the legs and feet are black. Males are females are similar.

Juvenile brent geese are like adults but with duller plumage and the black parts are browner. The upperparts have white fringes, and the flanks are lighter with more conspicuous pale edges which form bars. The white patch on the neck is missing.

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How do brent geese breed?

Brent geese start breeding in June and produce 1 brood a season. They are monogamous and nest in solitary pairs in loose colonies. Both male and female build the nest which is situated close to water in a shallow hole in the ground or on a mound of moss lined with softer materials such as grass and down.

Brent geese lay 3-5 smooth, slightly glossy, creamy white eggs which are incubated by the female alone for 24-26 days. The male will remain close by. Goslings are covered in grey down on the upperparts and white down on the underparts. They leave the nest soon after hatching and fledge at about six weeks. They remain together as a family until the next breeding season and reach sexual maturity at 2 years.

What do brent geese eat?

Brent geese eat mainly vegetation such as aquatic plants, moss, grasses, and lichen. During winter they supplement their diet with algae, seaweed, and eelgrass.

Brent Goose

Where can I see brent geese?

Brent geese arrive in the UK in October and depart in April. They can be found around much of the coast in estuaries, salt marshes, muddy creeks, pastures, parks, and arable land.

What do brent geese sound like?

Peter Boesman/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Brent geese got their name from the Old Norse word ‘brandgás’ meaning ‘burnt goose’. In some countries they are known as brant geese.

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One Response

  1. The last 2 years, in Mid September 2020/21. Ive visited Mostyn near Prestatyn North Wales. Can you please tell me what are the breed of Geese that fly over from the land to the Dee estuary in the morning and back in the evening. Have they come here to breed ? or do they stay here ?

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