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Barnacle Goose

Latin Name: Branta leucopsis

In the UK you will see the largest number on the Solway Firth and on Islay, Scotland. Islay has recorded around 30,000 birds and around 25,000 visit WWT Caerlaverlock in Dumfries during the winter months.


It is a medium-sized goose with a creamy-white face and black on its head, all of the neck, upper breast, and tail. Its under parts is white. The wings and its back are silver-grey with black-and-white bars. The bill, legs and feet are also black. During flight a V-shaped white rump patch and the silver-grey underwing linings are visible.

Animal Facts

In Britain: October-March

Lifespan: Typically 12 years

Statistics: Average length 27 inches for the male and 23.5 inches for the female. Weight Male 4lbs and female 3.57lbs

Habitat: During breeding on high cliff tops, when feeding they can be found in salt marshes, grasslands near river estuaries, or tidal mud flats.

Food: Grasses and coastal plants, leaves and seeds.

Breeding: Mainly on the Arctic islands of the North Atlantic. They nest in small colonies high on mountain cliffs away from predators, mainly arctic foxes. They lay on average 4-6 eggs. Once hatched at 3 days old the goslings jump off the cliff. They are not fed by their parents.

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Distribution: A UK winter visitor whose numbers are around 68,000 individuals. In the UK they can be seen in large numbers in the West of Scotland, around the Solway Firth and Islay and in Ireland. You will also find them in smaller numbers in other places around the UK such as Ynys-Hir Nature Reserve in Powys, Wales where 280 were recorded in November 2008, and some Wetland reserves where captive birds are held.

Behaviour: It flies in large packs and long lines with a noisy chorus of barking or yapping sounds. At 3 days old young goslings jump off the cliff where they were born and fall to the ground. They are small and their feathery down makes them light and protects them from harm on the fall, however many do die from the impact.

Conservation Status: Large populations so they are of least concern. In the UK the RSPB list them at an Amber Status - for an explanation of the RSPB Status - click here.



See Also

Winter Migrants

Caerlaverock WWT, Dumfries, Scotland  

Ynys Hir Nature Reserve, Machynlleth, Powys




By: Tracey Park Section: Wildlife Key:
Page Ref: barnacle_goose Topic: Birds  Last Updated: 03/2010

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