Geese Migration - The Little Sea Goose
The name is magical, and it carries with it a suggestion of distant
places and amazing journeys. And so it is with this diminutive little
goose, which pays an annual visit to British Columbia.
The Black Brant
is the western North American subspecies of the Brant, (Branta bernicla).
Black Brant are truly international travellers. They nest in Arctic
coastal lowlands, in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. Never venturing
far from salt water, they migrate south to winter. Numbers formerly
wintered in coastal British Columbia, but it is believed this changed
as a result of active market hunting for the Christmas table. Now,
only a few stay in the Haida Gwaii islands, and Boundary Bay on the
Lower Mainland, with the vast majority travelling to the coastal lagoons
of Western Mexico.
When it is time
to move north again to breed, they work their way up the coast.
In British Columbia, their arrival is a cause for celebration, as
thousands of birds set their wings, and descend on coastal beaches
and flats, to feed on Eelgrass (Zostera species). There is a large
concentration of Brant on the east coast of Vancouver Island, and
the communities of Parksville and Qualicum Beach annually host the
Brant Festival in April. There are excellent opportunities for birding,
both casually and competitively. Exhibitions of wildlife art, photography,
and carving draw many visitors, and there are many other activities
The geese stay
for a month or more, feeding and resting. They gabble to each other,
ever alert to attacks by Bald Eagles. Then, group-by-group, they
lift off, a few each day, and push on for the next leg of their
long annual journey.