Brant (Branta bernicla)
Field markings: 25 inches long. Dark colored
with a black head, neck, and breast. White patch on both sides of the neck,
just under the throat. Underside of the body is gray, lightening to white at
the tail, with a black bar at its end. Juveniles lack the white neck pattern.
Habitat: Saltwater inlets and estuaries.
Seasonal appearance: Winter, early spring.
The brant is a small, dark, sea goose, slightly larger than a mallard duck. The genus name Branta is derived from the German word "brand" meaning burnt, referring to its dark feathers, and the species name bernicla is from the Norwegian word for barnacle. An ancient legend associated with the brant is that they hatch from barnacles on driftwood.
Life History and Behavior
Brant fly with rapid wing beats on long and pointed wings. Flocks of brant fly low in a ragged formation. The flocks do not form in a "V" shape as some geese do; instead they bunch together or form long wavy lines. Brant travel along the coast and are usually found on sandy peninsulas and bars. They generally avoid migrating over land.
Brant return to the same nesting site year after year as many birds instinctively do. They are monogamous, forming lifelong pair bonds at three years of age. The main food sources for brant geese are eelgrass, aquatic plants, moss, lichen, crustaceans, mollusks, worms, insects, and some grain. They feed in a manner similar to ducks, dipping from the water's surface and dabbling in the submerged vegetation. When feeding, they have sentinel guards watching for possible predators.
Adapted from The Uncommon Guide to Common Life on Narragansett Bay. Save The Bay, 1998.