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Order Wildfowl/Anseriformes, Family Waterfowl/Anatidae

Brent Goose/Branta bernicla - Adult

L 55-62 cm, WS 105-117 cm. Breeds on arctic islands and coasts, preferring low tundra near sea coasts. Migratory, main movements late Sept-Oct and late May, largely keeping to traditional routes; often concentrated passage in spring. Habits duck-like, often resting on open sea (dense flocks) and feeding in shallow waters, upending to reach main food of eel-grass; also grazes on mudflats and grassy fields.
IDENTIFICATION: Somewhat smaller than Barnacle Goose, slimmerbodied with slightly neck, smaller head and narrower wings. Darkish with bright white stern. Small white crescent on side of upper neck visible at close range. In flight appears slim and elegant, with pointed wings swept back a little; wingbeats slower than Eider but somewhat quicker than Barnacle Goose. Migration flocks often very large (esp. in spring), flock formation disorderly U-shaped lines or muddle of lines. - Variation: Ssp. bernicla (Russia, W Siberia, migrates through Baltic to NW Europe) has dusky dark grey belly and slightly paler flanks and dark grey upperparts; ssp. hrota (Svalbard, Greenland, passing Iceland and Norway to winter Denmark, England and Ireland) has much paler underparts, pale grey-white with rather clear contrast against black breast, and buff-tinged upperparts; ssp. nigricans, 'Black Brant' (E Siberia, Alaska, NW Canada, rare vagrant), has strong contrast between whitish flanks and very dark belly, and the white crescents on neck are large and widest on foreneck(often merging at front). -Adult: Upperparts plain dark brown-grey.-Juvenile: Upperwing-coverts tipped offwhite, giving barred appearance; white neck-crescents lacking at first, developed (late Sep) Oct-Dec. In all three races, juveniles have darker flanks (uniform with belly) than adults, making subspecific identification difficult or even impossible. - 1st-winter: Keeps white bars on upperparts. From Oct, paler flanks ssp hrota develop, facilitating separation from bernicla.
VOICE: Call a gargling, guttural 'r'rot' or 'rhut', at slightly varying pitch from flocks.

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