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Brant Goose - BirdForum Opus

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Note: The spelling Brant is standard in North America, and the spelling Brent is standard in Europe. For consistency, 'Brant' is used throughout here, following Clements[1] and IOC[2].

Branta bernicla bernicla
Photo by Helios
Cley, Norfolk, UK; February 2012
Branta bernicla


Branta bernicla hrota
Photo by Glen Tepke
Scituate, Massachusetts, USA

A small, dark goose, 55-66 cm long, 105-120 cm wingspan, and 1.2-2.25 kg weight.

Dark-bellied Brant Goose (B. b. bernicla)

  • Black head and neck, except for a white '>'-shaped half-collar on each side of the neck.
  • Sharp demarcation from the lower breast, belly, and flank which are dark greyish-brown.
  • Back and wing coverts are darker brown.
  • Black wing tips.
  • The vent, under-tail coverts, and upper-tail coverts (only visible in flight) are white.
  • Black tail, shorter than in other geese and sometimes concealed by the white under- and upper-tail coverts.
  • Bill, legs and feet are black.

Pale-bellied Brant Goose (B. b. hrota)

Much paler belly and flanks almost without contrast between vent/undertail and belly. Otherwise similar to Dark-bellied.

Grey Brant Goose (B. b. nigricans)

Much as Black Brant, but grey rather than black on fore flanks.

Black Brant Goose (B. b. orientalis)

Branta bernicla orientalis
Photo by stuprice68
Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan

Much darker central belly and breast, almost without contrast between upper breast and lower breast, where the other forms are sharply demarcated.
On the other hand, this form has a white flank in contrast both up and down to darker areas, but almost as light as the undertail. The white half-collar on the side of the neck is often much stronger, and can be continuous at the back of the neck.


  • All forms lack the white neck marking
  • White edges to feathers on the wings and back produce a scaly impression


Circumpolar arctic, wintering on coasts at 30° to 56°N latitude; see taxonomy, below, for detail by subspecies.


Branta bernicla bernicla in flight
Photo by targetman
Lincolnshire, UK February 2010

This species has four subspecies[1]; a few people split them as separate species, but this is not widely followed at present. The naming of the subspecies has recently been readjusted, after it was discovered that the type specimen of B. b. nigricans was a Grey Brant Goose, and not a Black Brant Goose as had been previously thought. As a result, the Grey Brant Goose, previously with no scientific name, becomes B. b. nigricans, while the Black Brant Goose is renamed B. b. orientalis[3]. The four groups are:

Dark-bellied Brant Goose (B. b. bernicla)

Breeds in north-central Siberia (mainly around the Taimyr Peninsula); winters in coastal north-western Europe, mainly in southern England, Netherlands, Belgium, and northern France.

Pale-bellied Brant Goose (B. b. hrota)

Breeds in Franz Josef Land, Svalbard, Greenland and northeastern Canada; winters in western Denmark, northeast England, Northern Ireland, and the Atlantic coast of the United States from Maine to Georgia.

Grey Brant Goose (B. b. nigricans)

Breeds on Melville Island in central arctic Canada; winters mainly in the Puget Sound in Washington and British Columbia, also small numbers on the New Jersey coast.

Black Brant Goose (B. b. orientalis)

Breeds in northeastern Siberia, northern Alaska, and northwestern Canada; winters to China, Japan, Mexico, and the west coast of North America; also a rare vagrant to northwest Europe.


Coasts, tidal estuaries, inland agricultural land and low-lying wet coastal tundra for both breeding and feeding.



The raised cup-shaped nest is lined with grass and down.


The diet includes vegetation, especially eel-grass.



  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gill, F and D Donsker (Eds). 2014. IOC World Bird Names (version 4.3). Available at http://www.worldbirdnames.org/.
  3. Reed, A., Ward, D. H., Derksen, D. V., & Sedinger, J. S. (2013). Brant Branta bernicla Systematics at The Birds of North America Online.
  4. birdforum thread discussing the forms of Brant Goose
  5. Wikipedia

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