Barnacle Goose

Barnacle Goose


Profile Barnacle Goose     Literature page Barnacle

[order] Anseriformes | [family] Anatidae | [latin] Branta leucopsis | [UK] Barnacle Goose | [FR] Bernache nonnette | [DE] Nonnengans | [ES] Barnacla de Cara Blanca | [IT] Oca dalla faccia bianca | [NL] Brandgans

Brandgans determination

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The Barnacle Goose is a small goose easily identified by its black neck and chest, pure white small head, grey striped back contrasting with a very pale underpart . There are some similitudes with the Canada Goose, but the latter has a longer neck.
Also, the Canada Goose has a pale or brown chest, never black.
The Barnacle Goose has a small triangular black beak, black legs and a white rump. In flight, wings look wide.
Three main groups, respectively coming from Greenland, Spitzberg and New Zemble start their migration end of August or beginning September. They never mix and land on Scottish, Irish, and UK west coasts. The third group arrives on German and Netherland shores. In France, the species is normally very rare, limited to a few dozens of individuals found in the Somme and Mount Saint-Michel’s bays. During very cold winters, number of individuals may reach an amount of 8000, found in a larger area, including all coastal bays and estuaries.

In summer, the Barnacle Goose frequents cliffs and the mass of fallen rocks of arctic islands. In winter, it lives in flooded meadows and coastal marshes, maritime bays low banks and mud flats at low tide.

Branta leucopsis has an entirely European distribution, breeding mainly in the far
north, and wintering in north-west Europe. Its breeding population is relatively small
(This goose has three distinct populations. The first one, estimated at 32000 individuals, is breeding in Greenland and wintering in Ireland and north-western Scotland. The second, estimated at 12000 individuals, is breeding on Svalbard and wintering in south-western Scotland. The third population, estimated at 176000 individuals, is breeding on the arctic coasts of Russia and Novaya Zemlaya and wintering mainly in northern Germany and in the Netherlands. Since 1971 this species is also breeding in the Baltic Sea (Sweden, Finland and Estonia) where its population amounted to more than 2000 breeding pairs in 1994. All populations have considerably increased since the 1950’s, thanks to a better protection of their habitats and a reduced hunting pressure.

As well as barnacles and geese in general, the Barnacle Goose is mainly vegetarian. Grass is its main diet, although during summer, it can eat various maritime plants shoots. In winter, when grass is not as dense, Barnacle eat also seaweeds, aquatic insects, molluscs and shellfish.
The species eats anytime during the day and prefers the coastal zone grass, regularly flooded by water. If it’s not possible, it turns off towards the meadows behind the coast.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 50,000-100,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 440,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from]

Breeding season starts soon after returning in the Arctic. During the courtship display, the couples leap, stretching their neck and flapping their wings. They call loudly. Every bird chooses its partner for the season. Some birds remain in couple all life long. Barnacle Geese gather to nest in colonies. The nest, built mainly with vegetal materials and lined with down, is placed on a cliff’s ledge, an islet close to the shore or directly on the tundra. The nest site is sometimes shared with guillemots. The female lays three to five eggs and sits on them for 24 to 25 days while the male is guarding it watchfully. The altricial fledglings are very active as soon as they hatch out and are ready to fly 40 to 45 days after. The family group remains together during migration and wintering.

Migratory. Departs breeding grounds to winter mainly in Britain (Scotland & Ireland) and E coast of N Sea (Netherlands), but has occurred further S (Egypt) and W (N America).


  1. Measurements
  2. spanwidth min.: 120 cm
  3. spanwidth max.: 142 cm
  4. size min.: 58 cm
  5. size max.: 70 cm
  6. Breeding
  7. incubation min.: 24 days
  8. incubation max.: 25 days
  9. fledging min.: 40 days
  10. fledging max.: 45 days
  11. broods 1
  12. eggs min.: 3
  13. eggs max.: 6
  14. Conservation Status
  15. Brandgans status Least Concern
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