The brant (Branta bernicula) is a small goose, only slightly larger than the Ross’s goose. Birdwatchers are not likely to confuse the two, however, because one of the most notable characteristics of the brant is its overall dark color. Its head, neck, and breast are black, while its back is dark brown. The underparts are typically gray, fading to white. The rump and tail coverts are also white. The bill, legs, and feet are black.
Immature brants look nearly identical to their parents. However, adult brants have small traces of white on either side of their necks just below their heads. Immature brants do not share this characteristic. They also have white bars on their wings, while the wings of adult brants are solid-colored.
Best Field Marks
- Dark head.
- Dark breast.
The brant gives a throaty, purring krrr-onk call.
Distribution & Occurrence
Brants are rare birds in Kansas, mostly preferring to live on the coasts. However, they can be seen on a casual basis during migration and throughout the winter, generally in the eastern part of the state. Another good place to look for a brant is among the flocks of Canada geese at Cheyenne Bottoms, particularly in February.
One unusual characteristic of brant geese is their disorganized flight formations. Sometimes they fly single file, but often they travel low in the air in a jumbled bunch, frequently jostling for new positions.
Brants are vegetarians and typically dabble for their food.
Birdwatchers are not likely to have much success attracting brants.
Hunters use decoys, as well as a special brant call which gives a series of high-pitched brrr notes.
The brant bears a striking resemblance to the familiar Canada goose. However, the two species can easily be distinguished by the color patterns of their faces and breasts. The Canada goose has a light breast and a broad white “chinstrap.” The brant is dark overall in these areas, having only a trace of white on the neck.
The Canada goose is also the larger of the two geese. It is much more common in Kansas and other landlocked states.
Photos, audio, and more information from Cornell’s All About Birds site.