You’ve never heard of the species branta? It is a rather beautiful and very striking species, appreciated by a large number of poultry lovers. If you’ve never heard of this precious species before, the time has come for you to meet one of its most beautiful members: the barnacle goose.
What is a branta?
It belongs to the antidae family and is known as Branta leucopsis. It is endemic to northern Europe and eastern Greenland, although some specimens can sometimes be found in southern Europe and north-eastern North America.
It was first described in 1803 by the German ornithologist Johann Matthaus Bechstein. But the creator of the genre Branta was the Tyrolean naturalist Giovanni Antonio Scopoli in 1769. In the 1970s they began to be seen breeding in scattered areas of Sweden. They are migratory birds, travelling to north-western parts of Europe, such as the British Isles and the North Sea, during the winter months.
What does it look like?
It is a medium sized goose, which can measure between 55-70 cm long, reaching a wingspan of 130-145 cm, with a weight ranging from 1.2-2.20 kg. No sexual dimorphism.
Its main characteristic is its white face, contrasted with the rest of its head, neck and chest which have black feathers. The flange area is also black. The upper parts of your body are gray, with black and white stripes.
The lower parts, on the other hand, are white, with light grey stripes on the side. When flying you can see a white V-shaped strip in the upper caudal zone. Its bishop and tail are black. The lower cover feathers of the wings are light grey, while the flight feathers are black. Its beak is short, black in colour, as are its legs.
What do we know about his behavior?
It is a phytophagous species, which means that its diet is composed of the leaves, roots and seeds of swedes, reeds, aquatic plants, mosses and various herbaceous plants such as white clover and some shrubs. It may also eat grains and vegetables from fields during the winter, so for some farmers it may be considered a pest. During the winter they feed especially on clover fields.
They breed between the months of May and June, living together in small colonies that can be small of 5 to 50 pairs or large of up to 150 pairs. Although some pairs may prefer to nest in isolation. It is a bird of habit, using the same nesting area each year, looking for areas close to nests of other seabirds. The nest is built between the vegetation, in a shallow depression in the soil, although it can be located in a semi-desert tundra, on cliff ledges or in rocky outcrops, as well as in dampness. The location will depend on the predators in the area. In Greenland they build it on top of cliffs to prevent predators like the polar bear or the Arctic fox from attacking their nests.
Each brood consists of 4-6 white eggs. The female is the one who incubates the eggs for 25 days, while the male’s task is to watch out for predators. When the chicks hatch, after three days of age, the chicks that live in high areas are thrown into the void to the call of the parents. The survival rate is high, as their plumage makes them unharmed from impact. Until they learn to fly, chicks take 7 weeks. Adults, after incubating the eggs, lose their plumage and are unable to fly for 3-4 weeks.
It is a fairly long-lived species, with an average life span of about 15-18 years. The longest-lived specimen recorded at liberty lived 28 years and 2 months. It has not been treated as a pet bird like other geese, but people who see them in their lakes or ponds usually take care of them as such, as they do not give much work.