The barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis) is a medium sized, black and white goose. Barnacle geese occur in three separate populations that breed in northeast Greenland, in Svalbard and in northwest Russia and the Baltic region.
Barnacle geese occur in three separate populations that breed in northeast Greenland, in Svalbard and in northwest Russia and the Baltic region. The birds from Greenland winter in Ireland and in the western parts of Scotland, whereas the Svalbard birds spend the winter in the Solway Firth between England and Scotland. The eastern population winters along the western coasts of Germany and the Netherlands.
The Svalbard barnacle goose is indistinguishable morphologically from birds in the other populations, but is geographically isolated. In Svalbard, the barnacle goose breeds on the western coast of Spitsbergen and within Tusenøyane south of Edgeøya.
Most barnacle geese breed in colonies on small islands, but some pairs also breed on cliffs on Spitsbergen.
Barnacle geese breed on rocky ledges on cliffs, on skerries and on small rocks surrounded by water, as well as on grassy islets near the sea, but occasionally they can be found nesting several kilometres inland.
After hatching, the families leave the nesting islands and swim to the mainland to forage on the lush vegetation near tundra ponds. In Svalbard the breeding and brood-rearing sites are normally 5–25 kilometres apart.
The adults moult after nesting. At this time they cannot fly so they seek protection from predators on tundra lakes and at sea.