Black Brant    Branta bernicla nigricans



This handsome, dark-colored sea goose is often seen along the sandy beaches of southern Puget Sound as well as the open coast and coastal bays during it's annual spring migration from wintering grounds in Baja Mexico to breeding grounds in the high coastal Arctic in Alaska and Canada.    Another subspecies of Brant, called the American Brant, occurs along the Atlantic coast.  While both subspecies sport a multi-banded white neck patch, the American Brant has a lighter colored breast.  Some bird specialists have suggested that there is a third subspecies of Brant that winters in northern Puget Sound and is intermediate in the degree of blackness between the Black and American.  At 25 inches, the Black Brant is several inches larger than a Mallard duck and can be distinguished from it's larger relative, the Canada Goose, by it's small size, short neck, dark color and lack of a white patch on the cheek.  The brant also flies faster, lower to the water and in a more ragged formation than do Canada geese.


Like other brant, the Black Brant feed on marine vegetation in the shallow subtidal and intertidal zones.  It eats mainly eelgrass as well as sea lettuce and the occasional crustacean, mollusk and marine worm. 


Black Brant nest in depressions in the coastal arctic tundra that are lined with vegetation, down or moss and lichens where they usually lay five eggs.  They will also use offshore islands in the arctic when foxes are common on the mainland.  Young fledge in 40 to 45 days and then gather with other broods in offshore flocks.