Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Barnacle Goose - Branta leucopsis
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General Comments The Barnacle Goose is a casual or accidental visitor to coastal areas of the United States, as well as to North Carolina, with large numbers of other geese. Its status is somewhat unsettled because of the difficulty in determining the origin of birds, as the species is kept in captivity. To be conservative, a number of states have not accepted records as being of wild birds. In 1990, the NC BRC also took this position [Chat 54:54 link]. However, in 2004, the NC BRC accepted a report (with photos) as being of wild provenance, and thus the species has been afforded a place on the Official List. All five of the older reports from state took place in areas where large numbers of waterfowl wintered, at an appropriate time of year (late fall and early winter) when one might assume natural vagrants to appear in the state.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SA
Global Rank G4G5
Coastal Plain Accidental or casual winter visitor to coastal/tidewater areas, on fresh water; apparently more frequent many decades ago. The only accepted record is of one seen and photographed at Mattamuskeet NWR from 9 Nov - 29 Dec 2003* [Chat 69:29 link]. There are 4 additional reports: two taken by a hunter in Currituck Sound, 31 Oct 1870; one shot there, 22 Nov 1892; one shot near Pea Island, 24 Nov 1925; and one seen at Pea Island, 6 Nov 1949. These additional reports probably need re-review for provenance.
Piedmont Accidental. One seen at Gaddy's Pond (Anson), 28 Dec 1950 has not been reviewed by an NC BRC. Several other reports (mainly in Guilford), but none were accepted as being of wild/natural origin.
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips Always thoroughly check flocks of Canada Geese for this species.
1/2 *
Attribution LeGrand[2018-02-01], LeGrand[2014-06-08], LeGrand[2014-01-09]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.