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Atlantic Brant Migration and Breeding Ecology Study Update


October 11, 2018

During winter 2018, the NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife kicked-off a 5-year collaborative Atlantic brant migration and breeding ecology study with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Atlantic brant are a small goose species that breeds in northern Canada and winter in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. About 90% of the entire population winters along the coast of New Jersey and New York! During the next two years, crews will be marking brant with GPS transmitters and tiny geolocators. The geolocators are clear, plastic electronics about the size of a "fat nickel" and are attached to a red and white plastic leg band with a plastic cable lock tie.

Red numbered leg band on brant
Atlantic brant with tarsal band
  Atlantic brant with GPS backpack marker and geolocator
Atlantic brant with GPS backpack marker and geolocator

This study is using GPS backpack and tarsal geolocators during 2018-19 on both the wintering grounds in New Jersey/New York and breeding grounds in Nunavut, Canada. Marked birds will provide insight into the following Atlantic brant questions:

  • During winter, are brant distributed in the same areas as the Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey? If so, the survey is representative of the wintering population; if not, adjustments to the geographic coverage of the MWS need to be made.
  • How faithful are brant to wintering areas within and among years?
  • What is the breeding propensity of Atlantic brant?
  • What is the age at first breeding for Atlantic brant?
  • What are the key staging areas used during spring and fall migration and is there annual variation in these stopover sites?
  • Is there a relationship between spring phenology, timing of nesting, and timing and rates of movement?
  • How faithful are brant to breeding areas among years?
  • Do brant molting at the locations currently marked during the summer period use the same wintering and/or migration areas? Do they have the same migration timing?
  • Are the current Atlantic brant preseason (summer) banding stations adequately or reasonably reflect the wintering distribution of brant?

What should I do if I encounter a marked Atlantic brant and how can I help?

1. Bird with tarsal band or backpack transmitter shot or found dead: Please contact Ted Nichols at 609-628-3218 or by e-mail at In order to obtain any previous location data from a geolocator or backpack transmitter, we need to get the device in hand. The information obtained from these marking units is vital to the success of the study. Further, if not damaged, the devices can be reused on new birds. Hunters who want to retain one of the marking devices as a "keepsake" will be provided with a "dummy" unit which will be a casing of the real device.

2. Sight record of live bird with tarsal band: If you see a red leg bands in the field, please report the observation to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Bird Banding Laboratory.

3. Bird with leg band only, shot or found dead: Report to Bird Banding Lab at REPORTBAND.GOV.

We appreciate the cooperation and interest from the public.
Brant on NJ beach
Atlantic brant were captured for marking on the wintering grounds in New Jersey and New York by luring them to rocket nets using decoys.
Click to enlarge
Captured brant
Molting, flightless Atlantic brant were also captured on their arctic breeding grounds during August in Baffin Island (pictured), Nunavut, Canada. Note study birds with transmitters and tarsal bands with geolocators to far right and in center of photo. Atlantic brant goslings in foreground.
Click to enlarge

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Department of Environmental Protection
P.O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: October 11, 2018