BIRDS: The Burnt Goose – Fowl or Fish?

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brent_goose_-_defensive_positionTHE STORY:  Burnt Goose – Fowl or Fish?

Have you seen this guy along our Fundy shores?

It’s a small goose that shows up during migration and stays over the winter. It often confuses people because of its smaller size and color.

The Brant has had a long, strange and sometimes difficult existence.

Branta is a Latinized form of Old Norse brandgás, “burnt” (black) goose and bernicla is the medieval Latin name for the barnacle. Believe it or not, the brant was formerly believed to be the same creature as the barnacle we see clinging to intertidal rocks!. That myth can be dated back to at least the 12th century. Gerald of Wales claimed to have seen these birds hanging down from pieces of timber, William Turner accepted the theory, and John Gerard claimed to have seen the birds emerging from their shells. The legend persisted until the end of the 18th century. In County Kerry, until relatively recently, Catholics could eat this bird on a Friday because it counted as fish. (Based on Wikipedia article)

And life has been difficult. Dependent almost totally on saltwater eel grass (Zostera marinus), Brant populations in eastern North America declined by almost 90 percent in the 1930s when disease savaged the eel grass along the Atlantic coast. But they are survivors and managed to switch to sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca) as their principal food and eventually learned to add agricultural grains to their fare.



Coastal bays, estuaries, shorelines and agricultural fields. Check out current records at EBirdfundyebird



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Roger Burrows (Author), Birds of Atlantic Canada Paperback – April 19, 2002, Ted Nordhagen (Illustrator), Gary Ross (Illustrator)

William Austin Squires, The Birds of New Brunswick , New Brunswick Museum, 1976 – 221 pages



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