Atlantic Brant – Accepted

1. 27 Nov 1973–08 Jan 1974


Malibu LA



Fig. 8, ph., AB 28:107

2. 13 Dec 1975–10 Jan 1976


San Diego Bay SD






Figure 8. The Committee reviewed records of the Atlantic Brant (B. b. hrota) from 1973 until the various taxa were lumped into a single species in 1976. Only two records were evaluated, and both were endorsed as involving hrota, although (hypothetically) it is uncertain whether the CBRC would continue to do so today. The first accepted record refers to this first-fall bird, photographed in November 1973 at Malibu Lagoon, Los Angeles County (1974-003; Herbert Clarke).

Atlantic Brant

ATLANTIC or WHITE-BELLIED BRANT Branta bernicla hrota (Müller, 1776)

Accepted: 2 (100%)

Treated in Appendix H: no

Not accepted: 0

CBRC review: records from 1973 through 19761

Not submitted/reviewed: NA

Color image: none



This subspecies, known as the Atlantic or White-bellied Brant, breeds from central arctic Canada east to Greenland, and on Svalbard and Franz Josef Land in the Western Palearctic. Atlantic Brant winter in northwestern Europe—mainly in the British Isles and Denmark—and along the Atlantic seaboard from Massachusetts to South Carolina. They occur casually elsewhere across the continent outside of regular migratory routes; reports have come from the Seward Peninsula of Alaska (Kessel 1989), Washington (Jewett et al. 1953, but see Wahl et al. 2005), Oregon, and Baja California (Devillers et al. 2001). Black Brant (B. b. nigricans) breed west to the Taimyr Peninsula of arctic Siberia, reportedly intergrading with Dark-bellied Brant (B. b. bernicla) of the Eastern Palearctic, although mixing of Brant subspecies may be rarer than previously assumed (Buckley and Mitra 2002). Brant of variable, but generally intermediate, appearance breed in the Parry Islands of western arctic Canada and winter mainly in Puget Sound, Washington, with reports south to the Baja California Peninsula (Buckley and Mitra 2002) and east to Iceland and the British Isles (Garner 1998, Garner and Millington 2001). These birds, termed “Gray-bellied,” “Lawrence’s,” or “Western High-Arctic” Brant, are not formally described. As reviewed by Mlodinow and Axelson (2006), the palest of these birds may be indistinguishable from hrota in the field, a situation that casts considerable doubt on all Pacific coast records of hrota, including those discussed below.

California’s first record of a bird showing characters of the Atlantic Brant involves an adult male collected on 30 January 1914 from a flock of Black Brant on Arcata Bay, Humboldt County (Bryant 1914b, MVZ 24588). The second is of an adult male collected on 20 October 1941 inland at Tule Lake NWR, Siskiyou County (Harrison 1942). Following unification of the Brant as a single species (AOU 1976), reports of this taxon in the state evaporated (Patten and Campbell 1992). Luther et al. (1979:173) suggested that “one or two ‘white-bellied’ Brant are found along the coast of California every year,” but only two winter occurrences—both from the southern coast—were submitted during the four years of CBRC review. Unitt (1984) referred to “seven sight records of hrota for San Diego Bay,” but later (2004) acknowledged the possibility “that some or all were of the gray-bellied population.” Three records that Lehman (1994) published for Santa Barbara County (incorrectly given as B. b. bernicla) are subject to the same uncertainty. With reference to northwestern California, Harris (2006) stated, “The Light-bellied Brant (B. b. hrota) is represented by at least 25 specimens or well-documented sight records (specimens at HSU and MVZ, Bryant 1914, Grinnell and Miller 1944).” Again, given current knowledge, the subspecific identity of these birds is open to question.

Another identification potential pitfall involves Black Brant with plumage that is heavily worn and/or bleached by the sun. Birds can start to take on this washed-out appearance by late April (P. E. Lehman in litt.), although most are encountered in late spring and summer. Such individuals may resemble one of the lighter-bellied forms.

1On the review list 1972–1976

[BARNACLE GOOSE Branta leucopsis (Bechstein, 1803) – see hypothetical section]

[HAWAIIAN GOOSE Branta sandvicensis (Vigors, 1834) – see hypothetical section]