Habitat: In winter and during migration, their habitat is mainly along saltwater bays, rocky shores and tidal flats, especially where eelgrass is present. In summer, brants live on islands off the Arctic coasts, deltas, broad river valleys, well vegetated uplands, and tundra lakes.
Their summer molting areas are dominated by large freshwater lakes and estuaries. The brant breeds on coastal tundra, in low and barren terrain. In western North America, preferred nest sites include peninsulas or islets in large wetland regions, which may be subject to tidal action.
Summer Range: Brant breed in the high Arctic of Alaska and Canada in the aquatic areas throughout the Arctic Archipelago, north to Prince Patrick and northern Ellesmere Islands, and south to northern Yukon and the Arctic mainland of Mackenzie, Keewatin, and southern Baffin Island.
Winter Range: Brant migrate along the coast of British Columbia, the east coast of Hudson and James Bays, and over land between Ungava Bay, the lower St. Lawrence River, and inner north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Black Brant winters in marshy marine situations such as lagoons, estuaries and shallow bays. It is only limited by eelgrass availability. The Black brant winters along both coasts from Alaska to Mexico, and Massachusetts to North Carolina.
Food: In winter, brants are strictly coastal birds and feed on sea lettuce, eelgrass and other aquatic plants. They possess a highly developed salt gland that allows them to drink salt water. The Pacific population feeds on herring eggs each March.
Breeding Behaviour: Brant start to arrive on their Arctic breeding grounds in early May. The female builds the nest using sedges and grasses, and lines the nest with down from her breast. Females camouflage eggs with down to keep predators away and to keep the eggs warm.
The clutch of three to five eggs clutch hatches in about 24 days. After breeding, large flocks of brants congregate in staging areas where they molt and store body fat to prepare for the long, sometimes non-stop migration to their wintering grounds.
Nest Type and Egg Description: Brants nest on the ground in a depression lined or built up with mosses or lichens. Adult brants with young then move from colony sites to tidal flats in order to rear their chicks. They nest in loose colonies or singly.
Colonial nesters may place nests in the open, but single nesters cover nests in vegetation to avoid predation. Down is added for insulation; brant nests are among the best insulated of any bird species.
The clutch size is usually three to five eggs, but can be more. The eggs are creamy white and are incubated by the female with the male standing guard. The incubation lasts 22-26 days.
Conservation Status: Some estimates place more than 100,000 brants wintering on the east coast, and more than 150,000 on the Pacific Coast.
Information on this page compiled by Jessie Blake.
BirdLife International. http://www.birdlife.org
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. http://www.cosewic.gc.ca/eng/sct5/index_e.cfm
Cornell Lab of Ornithology. All About Birds. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/.
Ehrlich, Paul R. 1988. The Birder’s Handbook. Simon and Schuster, New York.
Godfrey, Earl W. 1986. Birds of Canada. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa.
Hinterland Who’s Who. http://www.hww.ca
Leslie, Scott. 2006. Wetland Birds of North America. Key Porter Books, Toronto. NatureServe. InfoNatura. http://www.natureserve.org/infonatura/