Barnacle Goose

The barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis) belongs to the genus Branta of black geese, which contains species with largely black plumage, distinguishing them from the grey Anser species. Despite its superficial similarity to the brent goose, genetic analysis has shown it is an eastern derivative of the cackling goose lineage.

The barnacle goose was first classified taxonomically by Johann Matthäus Bechstein in 1803. Its specific epithet is from the Ancient Greek leuko- "white", and opsis "faced".

In English, the term "barnacle" originally referred only to this species of goose and only later to the crustacean barnacles. It is sometimes claimed that the word comes from a Celtic word for "limpet", but the sense-history seems to go in the opposite direction.

The barnacle goose is a medium-sized goose, 55–70 cm (22–28 in) long, with a wingspan of 130–145 cm (51–57 in) and a body mass of 1.21–2.23 kg (2.7–4.9 lb). It has a white face and black head, neck, and upper breast. Its belly is white. The wings and its back are silver-gray with black-and-white bars that look like they are shining when the light reflects on it. During flight a V-shaped white rump patch and the silver-gray underwing linings are visible.

Barnacle geese frequently build their nests high on mountain cliffs; away from predators (primarily Arctic foxes and polar bears) but also away from food. Like all geese, the goslings are not fed by the adults. Instead of bringing food to the newly hatched goslings, the goslings are brought to the ground. Unable to fly, the three-day-old goslings jump off the cliff and fall; their small size, feathery down, and very light weight helps to protect some of them from serious injury when they hit the rocks below, but many die from the impact. Arctic foxes are attracted by the noise made by the parent geese during this time and capture many dead or injured goslings. The foxes also stalk the young as they are led by the parents to wetland feeding areas.