British Waterfowl Association

Brant Goose

3 Brent geese
Juvenile and adult Dark-bellied Brant Geese — Clayton Botkin

There are three subspecies of Brant (or Brent) Goose recognised:

  • B. b. nigricans — Black-bellied Brant of extreme north-east Siberia to north central Canada
  • B. b. bernicla — Dark-bellied Brant of northern and central Siberia
  • B. b. hrota — Pale-bellied Brant of Canada, Greenland, Svalbard and Franz Josef Land
2 dark-bellied Brent eating an apple
Dark-bellied Brant Geese — Morag Jones

Branta bernicla

The most northerly breeding goose, three subspecies of Brent Geese are recognised. Though separated geographically in the wild, they can readily interbreed. They are also able to breed with the Red-breasted Goose, which is occasionally documented in the wild, so care should be taken with inappropriate liaisons in mixed collections.  This may be more of a problem if goslings are hand reared without siblings.

This is a small dainty goose, little bigger than a Mallard. In winter, the Dark-bellied Brant which breed in northern Russia are seen in southern and eastern England. The Pale-bellied subspecies, breeding in Canada and Greenland are more likely seen in Ireland or Lindisfarne in Northumberland.

70–80% of the UK’s wintering population is found at ten or fewer sites, so it is considered localised. The UK also holds 40–50% of the European wintering population, so it is considered of international significance. For these reasons this species is Amber-listed in Britain.

The Black-bellied Brant is more commonly kept than the Dark-bellied subspecies. Great care should be taken with the provenance of breeding stock to be sure of which subspecies is being kept.

Pale-bellied and Black-bellied Brant Geese — Ian Gereg
3 Russian Bfrent geese swimming
Dark-bellied Brant Geese — Ian Gereg

3–5 white eggs are laid and incubated by the goose for 23–24 days. The gander guards the nest with great enthusiasm. Approach at your peril: a usually mild-mannered bird will launch like a missile at your legs and seize a lump of skin and twist. Further bruises are gifted from the beating of wings!