A lone barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis), who apparently took a wrong right turn from Greenland and ended up in Brooklyn, is charming lots of birders. But his fans don’t include the flock of Canada geese he’s glommed onto; they hiss and flap their wings at him.
Dozens of birders tried to get a glimpse or picture of the smallish, striped goose. I overheard chatter about him making their life list. He cruised between the peninsula and illicit duck-feeding area in the southwest corner of the lake.
I’m just assuming here it’s a young male–as so many wandering pioneers of many species are.
Yesterday he lost himself in the flock of Canada geese. Today he was by himself, then with a swan, then back with the flock. Though, in just twenty minutes I saw two birds try to drive him off. I don’t know if it was territorial or about the hierarchy within the group, but so far he doesn’t seem to be making friends.
He’s much smaller and prettier than the big Canadians. He has a teeny bill but eats the same leaves, roots and seeds that the lumbering Canadiennes do.
The Canada geese migrate much further south than barnacle geese. The ones you see on the east coast may also start in Greenland, but on the northwest coast, and migrate all the way down to the Carolinas–more than 2,000 miles. The Barnacle goose, however, is from the southeast coast of Greenland and flies about half that distance to Northern Ireland or Scotland. (Each species has many migration routes, stopping points that sometimes become permanent, birds that have decided to just stay in one place, geese that escaped from captivity and all kinds of complications).
The RSPB says there are only about 370,000 barnacle geese in the world, including roughly 100,000 that winter in the northern UK from Greenland and northern Russia.
He seemed thoroughly uninterested in the food being thrown by park goers. Maybe he’ll catch on and stick around. Otherwise, he’s got a long trip ahead, flying into hunting season.
Read about the Greenland goose’s appearance
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