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Barnacle goose

Branta leucopsis

Brandgans / Nonnengans (Weißwangengans) / Bernache nonnette


This attractive little goose is a close relative of the familiar Canada Goose. Barnacle Geese breed in Greenland and on a few small north Atlantic islands. Occasionally, this species will appear on the East Coast here in US while wintering, but the normal winter range is the British Isles and northern Europe.


This species can be somewhat difficult to sex, as the male and female have identical plumage. The forehead, face and chin are white, with a black streak from the eye to the short, black bill. The crown, neck, breast and upper back are glossy black, while the lower back is appears barred with a metallic sheen; lower breast and belly white, with faint gray stripes on the flanks. The legs and feet are black. Immature Barnacles are darker overall.


Barnacle Geese begin to lay their clutch of 4 to 6 eggs in late may and early June. The female does the incubation in nests that are often just small depressions lined with down. The gander is always close by, guarding the area. In the wild, this species will nest in large colonies, often on steep cliffs to deter predators such as the Arctic Fox.


Incubation lasts about 28 days. The gray goslings grow quickly. They are smaller than other geese, and if brooded artificially, need to be kept with non-aggressive species. Feed the goslings a ration of 20% or less protein and plenty of greens and other vegetation. They are able to fly at about 6 weeks.


The Barnacle Goose is an easy going, non-aggressive species that does very well in mixed waterfowl collections. Their small size makes them ideal for aviaries, but this goose will need areas to graze. Many breeder clip wings or pinion the birds and allow them free range. They are more terrestial than other waterfowl, but do provide a sufficent water source for bathing and drinking.


Being from the Arctic areas, the Barnacle Goose is very winter hardy. Do provide plenty of shade during the warm summer months. Do keep this species apart from the more aggressive species of geese and shelducks.



Above: adult pair of Barnacle geese



Above: adult Barnacle goose



Above: Overwintering Barnacle geese in the Netherlands


Above: ringing barnacle geese at Westplaat, Netherlands

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