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The Brant (called Brent Goose in Europe) is a small dark goose that occurs throughout the northern hemisphere. It is characterized by its extensive use of coastal habitats outside the breeding season and by its strong flight. Three subspecies are recognized (2 in North America), mainly on the basis of plumage characteristics, but further separation into subpopulations is warranted because of distinct ranges and genetic differentiation.
The Brant breeds from the low Arctic to the high Arctic, and migrates long distances to wintering areas. Different subpopulations nesting in arctic Canada and Alaska winter in areas as distant and widely separated as Baja California, the Puget Sound, the coastline of the mid-Atlantic states, and Ireland. Wintering locations are usually characterized by an abundance of sea grasses and certain marine algae. Brant traditionally have fed almost exclusively on marine plants and short native grasses, sedges, mosses, and forbs, but now also use fertilized grassland during winter in western Europe and eastern North America. Like other geese, this species accompanies its young through their first migration, and usually mates for life. In the low Arctic, Brant often breed in relatively dense colonies, but in the high Arctic nesting is more dispersed. Brant show fidelity to both wintering and breeding areas. Because of its strong dependence on certain food plants, and because some populations live in harsh environments, Brant are more vulnerable to periodic breeding failures and occasional heavy losses from starvation than are most other geese. This vulnerability necessitates careful population-monitoring and regulation of hunting.
Brant have been extensively studied in Europe, Asia, and North America but much remains to be learned. Key studies in e. North America include those on breeding and molting by Barry (1956, 1962) and Ankney (1984), and those on wintering and population dynamics by Kirby (Kirby and Obrecht 1980, 1982; Kirby et al. 1985, 1986). Main studies in w. North America include those on breeding by Mickelson (1975) and by Sedinger and Flint (Sedinger and Flint 1991, Sedinger et al. 1995, Flint and Sedinger 1992, Flint et al. 1995), on molting by Derksen et al. (1982), on migration by Dau (1992), on staging by Reed et al. (1989b), on survival rates by Ward et al. (1997), and on current status and conservation by Sedinger et al. (1993, 1994). Canadian high-Arctic populations have been studied by Boyd (Boyd and Maltby 1979, 1980; Boyd et al. 1988).