Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2016-30

Common name:

Barnacle Goose

Scientific name: Branta leucopsis
Date: 9-11-16
Time: 12:30pm
Length of time observed: 40 minutes
Number: 1
Age: Unknown
Sex: Unknown
Location: Approx 850 N 8300 W, West Weber
County: Weber
Elevation: 4300'
Distance to bird: 130 yards
Optical equipment: Swarovski & Vortex HD spotting scopes.
Weather: Clear & sunny
Light Conditions: Mid-day sun
Description:        Size of bird: Small goose ~28"
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Goose
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: White, Gray, Black
(Description:)            Bill Type: Stubby goose
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Small goose with a stubby black bill. Face and under chin were completely white with the exception of black on the Lores. Back of head, crown, neck, and breast were black. Delineation of black breast to light gray flanks and then again to white undertail. Back was barred with black and gray tipped with white towards the middle of back. Primaries and tail were black when standing. In flight tail was white with a heavy black terminal band. Black legs.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: N/A
Behavior: In a field with Canada geese, feeding.
Habitat: Short grassy field
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Cackling Goose-White on face would only be the "chin-strap", back would be brown, flanks and breast would be gray to grayish brown.
Emperor- white crown and dark underside with orange legs.
GWFG would have orange bill and legs plus many other field marks.
Brant- Completely black head and brownish back.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
None with Barnacle, have observed all other similar species multiple times in multiple habitats with the exception of Emperor.
References consulted: Online, Nat Geo & Sibley's Field Guides.
Description from: Notes taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Mike Hearell
Observer's address: 255 W 2700 N #71C, Pleasant View, UT 84414
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Taylor Abbott
Date prepared: 9-12-16
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: Bird was observed walking in short grass and seen in flight. There were no noticeable bands or feather wear that would point to this bird being a captive bird. Comments prepared mostly by Taylor on our eBird will be copied and emailed along with photos.

From eBird Report:
There are probably three options for this bird. The first is that it is a hybrid. The photos were taken at great distance, and aren't the sharpest, and the color is a bit off from what we were seeing through the scopes. With that said, we didn't see any signs of hybridization. All of the typical Barnacle Goose field marks were present, although the barring on the back doesn't show well in the photos due to the distance. The second option is that it is an escapee. The bird flew well, and wasn't banded. We were able to see the whole of both legs, and neither had any bands. It's hard to tell if it's an escapee, all that can be said is that no obvious signs of captivity were seen. Is anybody missing a goose? The third option is that it's a legitimate bird. Some of the evidence against it being a "true" sighting is that these birds are kept in captivity. Another point is that it is fairly far from where it is normally found. There are some pieces of evidence pointing to a possible good sighting. One is that it's the right time of the year, migration is happening, and geese migrate. Another is that is was hanging out in a field with Canada Geese, they are known to enjoy doing that. Another is that there have been other Barnacle Goose sightings in New Mexico, Texas, Missouri, and according to National Geographic, some in California. It might be extremely hard to say 100% whether this goose is an escapee or a pure wild bird. There are some that might argue it can't be a "true" sighting based solely on it's range map. However, a Barnacle Goose in Utah wouldn't be the furthest a bird has traveled from it's normal migration route. With more and more eBirders out there, more and more rare sightings are being recording, thus adding information to the birding community. Perhaps this is one more example of a lost migrant in a foreign land. **The flock of Canadas this bird was associated with appeared to be a migrant flock. Most local flocks I've seen have a relatively large percentage of banded geese within them (~25%). This particular flock had no federal leg bands or neck collars that I could see, although there is a good number of resident geese that are around this area.