The American brants and their close cousin, the black brant,
are a sort of half-way measure in size between the largest of the geese and the usual ducks. They appear on the water as very small dark geese with short blackish necks and whitish sides. They sit very lightly on the water with tail upraised and the flight half of the wings pointed upwards, somewhat in the fashion of the teal ducks.
Brant are also called the white-bellied brants. They are a true sea goose, seldom found very far away from the salt water. They are rarely found on the Pacific Coast, and the American's flight pattern is from Labrador to Florida and into the West Indies, though seldom moving farther south in the mass than the Carolinas.
The black is strictly a West Coast migrant, seldom if ever being found East of the California mountains.
American brant nest in the Far North and are found in company with eider ducks. The nest is of local materials such as mosses and lichens, with a plentiful lining of breast down feathers to ward off the northern cool breezes found there even in the summer.
The number of eggs varies from three to eight. As soon as the young can stand on their webbed feet they are drawn to the salt water as if by a magnet, the mothers and fathers aiding them to do so. At once they begin to feed and fend for themselves.
Brants do not usually fly in V-shape flocks but bunch together. Their trip is not as far as the Canada, and they do not generally fly as high.
At the table the brant, in the opinion of epicures, is one of our finest game birds, despite the fact that they feed and live in the salt water. Their northern feed consists of grass, algae, moss and stalks and leaves of arctic plants. Farther south they tend to feed on grass shoots, roots and other vegetation.
They generally start the southward migration along the East Coast in early September but head back again from their Carolina sites as early as March.
Flights of these birds can be seen in the sanctuaries along the East Coast in spring and fall. They are not hunted to any great degree, except in a few isolated places. While not a dramatically marked bird, they do make good camera subjects. They should certainly be among the birds seen and identified on your bird list.
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