(Branta bernicla)


Picture of bird
© Glen Tepke (
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

Brant are Arctic-nesting geese. There are four distinct populations of Brant recognized in North America: Atlantic Brant, the Eastern High Arctic population, Black Brant, and the Western High Arctic population. The Atlantic Brant subspecies primarily nests on islands in the Canadian Eastern Low Arctic. The Eastern High Arctic Brant subspecies breeds on the islands of Canada's Eastern High Arctic, and migrate via Greenland and Iceland to winter in Ireland (Reed et al. 1998). Both Eastern populations have been variable in recent years but overall are showing decreasing population trends. Nesting of the Western High Arctic Brant population occurs on islands in the Western High Arctic, and wintering occurs mainly in Pudget Sound, Washington (Reed et al. 1998). Black Brant nest in the central and western Low Canadian Arctic, Alaska, and western Russia. This population winters along the Pacific coast, mainly in Mexico (Reed et al. 1998). Black Brant and the Western High Arctic populations are assessed by winter surveys. When surveying, it is difficult to distinguish the two types of Brant, and therefore it is difficult to estimate the size of each population separately. The combined population has shown a stable trend since the 1960s. In general, Brant numbers are considered to be acceptable. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Watch list - yellow R2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLittle ChangeMediumNot Applicable
AtlanticLittle ChangeMediumAt an Acceptable Level
BlackData DeficientData DeficientData Deficient
Eastern High ArcticLittle ChangeMediumAt an Acceptable Level
Western High ArcticLittle ChangeMediumAt an Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada100,000 - 500,000 birds

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between late May and early June and ends between mid-July and late July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

Brant are more vulnerable to sporadic heavy losses from starvation and periodic nesting failures than most other geese because of their strong dependence on specific plants for foraging and the harsh environments where some populations live. Among North America’s goose species, the Brant is the only species for which no population has begun using agricultural landscapes to any great extent: for the most part, the species’ is restricted to natural marine marshes. This means that the birds may not have been able to capitalize on the landscape features that are driving the exponential population growth of other goose species. Finally, these geese fly long distances in the spring and fall between breeding and wintering areas and are therefore subject to poor weather conditions during migration and an unknown hunting pressure at staging areas. Western High Arctic Brant are of particular management concern given their relatively small number, restricted winter distribution, and potentially unique subspecies status. They are also vulnerable to petroleum spills, especially given that the majority of geese overwinter in Padilla and Samish bays, adjacent to tankers and an oil refinery at Anacortes, Washington. Their comparative vulnerability requires careful regulation of hunting and monitoring of the status of populations (Reed et al. 1998). Protecting staging areas and wintering grounds, as well as limiting disturbance to Brant populations, are probably the most important actions that can be taken to protect Brant.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Arctic Plains and MountainsArctic Plains and Mountains, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Other
Atlantic Northern ForestsAtlantic Northern Forests, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Other
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Other
Northern Pacific RainforestNorthern Pacific Rainforest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Other
Taiga Shield and Hudson PlainsTaiga Shield and Hudson Plains, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Other