The Brent Blog

Brent or brant geese (Branta bernicla) are one of the seven native geese found in the UK.

Brent geese are the smallest goose species found on our shores, only just larger than a mallard duck. Unlike other geese, the brent rarely fly in skeins ‘the typical V-shape’ we associate with geese. They usually fly in lines or small flocks.  Historically the species’ diet was thought to consist almost entirely of eelgrass (Zostera spp.) but following a drastic decline in eelgrass in the 1930s due to disease, the species has grazed coastal pastures and other available vegetation. The brent goose can be divided into three distinct races.

In Dumfries and Galloway, the principal subspecies found is the pale bellied brent (Branta bernicla hrota) which migrates over 5,000km from Canada to British and Irish shores. The vast majority winter in Ireland though a small population winter in West Galloway feeding on the sea grasses found there.

Occasionally dark bellied brents (Branta bernicla bernicla) arrive on Scottish shores. These geese typically breed along the arctic coasts of Russia and winter in Western Europe. In The UK the population is largely restricted to South and East England.

A third subspecies the black brent (Branta bernicla nigricans) is increasingly being recorded in the UK. They typically breed in East Siberia and Western Canada and winter along the coasts of east Asia and the Western Americas.

They occasionally migrate with the other two subspecies, though many records can be attributed to escapees from private collections.

Find out more about these fascinating birds at one of our Wild Goose Festival events, taking place across the region from 20th – 30th October.

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