Size: 14 1/2" long, by 8 1/2" high, by 6" wide.
The black brant appears blackish-brown and white in colour. This form is a very contrastingly black and white bird, with a uniformly dark sooty-brown back, similarly-coloured underparts (with the dark colour extending furthest back of the three forms) and a prominent white flank patch; it also has larger white neck patches, forming a near-complete collar. It breeds in northwestern Canada, Alaska and eastern Siberia, and wintering mostly on the west coast of North America from southern Alaska to California, but also some in east Asia, mainly Japan.
It used to be a strictly coastal bird in winter, seldom leaving tidal estuaries, where it feeds on eel-grass (Zostera marina) and the seaweed, sea lettuce (Ulva). In recent decades, it has started using agricultural land a short distance inland, feeding extensively on grass and winter-sown cereals. This may be behaviour learnt by following other species of geese. Food resource pressure may also be important in forcing this change, as the world population has risen over tenfold to 400,000-500,000 by the mid-1980s, possibly reaching the carrying capacity of the estuaries. In the breeding season, it uses low-lying wet coastal tundra for both breeding and feeding. The nest is bowl-shaped, lined with grass and down, in an elevated location, often in a small pond.
Brant often nest in loose colonies in arctic North America and Russia. They breed on the coastal tundra, on low and barren terrain; on islands, deltas, lakes, and sandy areas among puddles and shallows and in vegetated uplands. To avoid predation, brant often build nests on small offshore islands, on islands in small ponds or on gravel spits. Parents are bonded for life and both tend to nests and young. Female brant lay an average of 5 eggs.
Migrating and Wintering
In North America, brant winter along the Pacific coast from Alaska to Baja California and mainland Mexico, and along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to North Carolina (mainly from New Jersey to North Carolina). Since the mid-1960s, more than 80 percent of the counted winter population from Russia, Japan and North America has occurred in Baja California and other parts of northwest Mexico. Brant winter primarily in marine habitats that are marshy, along lagoons and estuaries and on shallow bays. Habitat use is often limited by the availability of eelgrass, a staple of the brant diet.
There are currently two populations of brant recognized in North America: Pacific and Atlantic. The Pacific (or black) brant have exhibited a significant downward trend from 1964 to 1992 and appear to be below historic population levels. Brant are strongly dependent upon certain foods and thus the population is vulnerable to losses due to starvation and temporary breeding failure.