Belongs to: geese

Compare with: canada goose

Barnacle goose Branta leucopsis

BoCC Red list

Best time to see: Oct to Apr

Key facts

Striking black-and-white goose; forming large flocks in favoured areas

Owes its name to the mediaeval myth that it did not come from an egg but from goose barnacles

Annual winter visitor to Britain from its arctic breeding grounds; feral populations also breed in the UK, including in Essex


Small goose with grey and black upperparts, black breast and neck, white face and black bill; 58–68 cm

In summer grass is its main diet; in winter, turns also to aquatic insects, molluscs and shellfish

Takes off and lands on water or on ground; flight strong and powerful


In Essex, breeds on islands in inland lakes or in saltmarsh

Nest is a lined depression; one brood of 3–5 white eggs, June – July

© Robin Chittenden