Friday, 30 September 2011

Barnacle goose

Branta leucopsis

(Photo from Like a Rushing Wind)

Common name:
Order Anseriformes
Family Anatidae
This species is found in the eastern North Atlantic basin, with three distinct population with different breeding and wintering areas. The birds breeding in eastern Greenland winter in the Hebrides of western Scotland and in western Ireland. The birds breeding on the Norwegian island of Svalbard wintering on the Solway Firth along the border between England and Scotland. The third population breeds on Novaya Zemlya, Russia, and winter in the Netherlands, but some birds from this population have recently started breeding also on the Baltic sea islands of Finland, Estonia, Sweden and Denmark.
The barnacle goose is 58-70 cm long and has a wingspan of 120-145 cm. They weigh 1,4-2,2 kg.
These birds breed in mountain cliffs and winter in coastal grassland pastures and marshes, also using tidal mudflats.
These birds are mostly herbivorous, grazing on short grass and salt marsh plants. They also eat the buds, leaves and catkins of willows, as well as some crustaceans, aquatic insects and molluscs.
They breed in June-August, nesting in small colonies. The nests is a shallow depression in a low mound of vegetation positioned on rocky ground, rocky outcrops, among rocky crags or on steep cliffs, made of plant material and lined with down and feathers. There the female lays 3-5 creamy-white eggs, which she incubates alone for 24-25 days. The precocial chicks leave the nest soon after hatching, often having to jump from high cliffs to fall on rocky ground with only their down and body fat to soften the fall. The chicks feed by themselves, but remain with their parents for up to 7 weeks until becoming fully independent.
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a large breeding range and an increasing population currently estimated at 440.000 individuals. In the past the barnacle goose was the target of human exploitation for adults, eggs and down, but the species is now fully protected which accounts for the current positive population trend, thus not being considered threatened at present.

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