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home : birding w/don reimer : birding w/don reimer
January 29, 2020

6/11/2009 4:27:00 PM
Brant Goose -
Brant Goose on Monhegan Island photographed last month  Photo by Don Reimer
Brant Goose on Monhegan Island photographed last month Photo by Don Reimer
by Don Reimer

At a length of 25 inches and a weight of only three pounds, the Brant Goose is somewhat similar to the larger and more familiar Canada Goose; it is actually about the size of a Mallard Duck. These stubby, short-necked geese are characterized by an overall dark appearance. The head and neck are black with a patch of white feathering on either side of the neck. The dark brown backsides contrast slightly with paler gray underparts.

The Brant is principally a bird of saltwater habitats, where it feeds on eelgrass (80 percent of its diet), seaweeds and tender green sea lettuce; a few crustaceans are also consumed. Brant numbers plummeted in the 1930s and '40s when disease wiped out entire beds of eelgrass in eastern coastal regions. The surviving geese adapted by eating sea lettuce and certain types of grasses. Brant are highly adapted to a marine environment. Salt glands located at the base of the bill filter salt out of the birds' bloodstream, allowing them to eat salt- water plants without becoming dehydrated. These birds generally feed during the low-tide periods when they can forage in shallow water next to shore or along beachfronts.

Brant are long-distance migrants that travel several thousand miles between their wintering grounds and the Arctic nesting areas. Wintering between coastal Massachusetts and North Carolina, flocks of Brant migrate in loose formations (rather than the typical "V"-shaped formations of other geese) to northern tundra and coastal islands in Alaska and western Canada. The tundra nesting season is brief and in some years geese do not nest at all if snow melt occurs too late in the year. In such instances, the female geese simply reabsorb the egg materials back into their bodies. Like other goose species, Brant pair for life around the age of three.

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