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April 11, 2019

A recently published scientific article uses USGS Bird Banding Laboratory records to evaluate hotspots of Black Brant band recoveries.

Banded Black Brant foraging
A federally banded, Black Brant goose walks on a beach with a plant hanging from its bill as it forages.(Credit: Bill German)

A group of scientists used the Bird Banding Laboratory’s (BBL) banding and encounter records to understand the population dynamics and harvest rates of Black Brants. The Black Brant is a western subspecies of the Brant goose and like many other North American waterfowl, are regularly harvested for human consumption during hunting season. Therefore, understanding their population dynamics, survivorship, and identifying key hunting areas is critical for effective management and conservation.

Researchers banded both adult and juvenile Black Brants on their breeding grounds in western Alaska and Canada between 1990 and 2015. They then evaluated recovery of those bands from 1990 to 2016 using the BBL encounter information collected via While a multitude of encounter types are submitted to the BBL, including sightings of living birds, this research specifically focused on band recoveries from hunting efforts.

Black Brant on rocky beach
A Black Brant stands on a rocky beach with a federal band and color marker on each leg. (Credit: Graham Gerdeman)

Researchers determined three major hotspots for band recoveries, with about 89% of Black Brant recoveries reported from Alaska, California, and Mexico. Although band recoveries for these birds more than doubled between the 2000s and 2010s, it is unclear if this was a result of an increase in harvest rate or a byproduct of increased banding operations within a declining population. With these uncertainties, the authors suggest additional monitoring efforts in these hotspots to further evaluate Black Brant demographics.

You can find more information about this study at:

Leach, A. G., Ward, D. H., Sedinger, J. S., Riecke, T. V., Hupp, J. W. and Ritchie, R. J. (2019), Spatial distribution of band recoveries of black brant. Jour. Wild. Mgmt., 83: 304-311. doi:10.1002/jwmg.21595

As part of the North American Bird Banding Program, the BBL at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center works in conjunction with the Bird Banding Office (BBO) of the Canadian Wildlife Service to manage more than 77 million bird banding records and more than 5 million encounter records from the US and Canada. These records are used not only by PWRC researchers, but also students, bird banders, hunters, and scientists from around the world. These records can be requested  by anyone wishing to study migratory birds that are native to Canada or the US.

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