The genus Branta contains six species of black geese, and is closely related to the grey geese of the genus Anser.
The two groups of geese are medium to large birds, sitting between the larger swans (Cygnus) and the smaller series of ducks within the Anatidae family.
Geese are distinguished by long necks, strong webbed feet and powerful wings. They are strong fliers and are often seen high in the sky migrating in large groups (the familiar 'V' formation of the winter skies). They migrate for quite amazing distances, often over the width of the oceans (British Branta come Greenland, Spitsbergen and Siberia).
The two genii of geese don't often inhabit the same freshwater areas, but they do overlap in their winter quarters.
Plenty of myths have attached themselves to geese. The Barnacle Goose was once believed to hatch from barnacles at the high tide line, which meant that at times it counted as fish for the Catholic Church
The only member of the Genus to breed in Britain is the familiar Canada Goose, often seen as a nuisance in areas where it has become established. Canada Geese behave very differently in their native environment, where they are wild birds that migrate long distances. In contrast their British relatives tend to be sedentary and quite destructive.
There are two regular winter migrants. The Barnacle Goose and Brent Goose both come from Greenland, Spitsbergen and Siberia.
Finally the Red-breasted Goose is a rare vagrant visitor.
Order: Anseriformes (Geese, Swans, Ducks)
Family: Anatidae (Geese, Swans, Ducks)
Genus: Branta (Black Geese)
Number of Species: Six (as of November 2014)
British Members of the Genus
Resident Breeder (Naturalised)
Canada Goose Branta Canadensis
Barnacle Goose Branta Leucopsis
Brent Goose Branta Bernicla
Red-breasted Goose Branta Ruficollis