Baking: Brant Goose

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Branta bernicla

Length: 22-26 in Weight: 2.5-4 lbs

Identification:

All black head and neck, with a thin white collar. Dark wings and belly, white tail.

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Distribution: 

Breed on the high arctic tundra. Winter along the Pacific coast and New England coast.

Cool Facts:

Brants primarily use ocean habitats, and so have a well-developed salt gland that allows them to process salt water.

Branta, the genus name shared by the Brant and three other goose species in North America, comes from an Old Norse word brandgás, meaning “burnt goose.”

Fresh off the (scientific) press:

Life on the arctic tundra can be harsh, and yet this landscape attracts hundreds of thousands of breeding geese every summer.

The tundra is also home to a fleet of predators: gulls, jaegers, and foxes will eagerly raid any delicious goose nest they can find. You’d think that nesting geese would try to avoid these predators. Why, then, do some Brant nest in the middle of gull colonies?

A 2016 study by Fouw et al. found that, even though Brant nesting closer to gull nests experienced higher rates of egg predation, they also laid more eggs overall and had access to more and better quality food – a side effect of lots of gull guano enriching the soil. This tradeoff between predation and nutrition is one of many fascinating aspects of nest site selection in birds.

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References:

All About Birds

de Fouw, J.R. A. BomR. H. G. KlaassenG. J. D. M. MüskensP. P. de VriesI. Y. PopovY. I. KokorevB. S. Ebbinge and B. A. Nolet2016Breeding in a den of thieves: pros and cons of nesting close to egg predatorsEcosphere 7(6): e01353.

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