Angus Wilson - Status of Barnacle Geese in New York

What follows below is a post by Angus Wilson on from NYSBirds that very cogently summarises the current view of Barnacle Goose occurrences. It does a better job than I could ever hope to do of indicating the sorts of issues that arise when dealing with a bird that is fairly widespread in waterfowl collections, but also may have a low rate of natural occurrence on the east coast of the USA. The post is reproduced intact, as far as possible (with permission from the author):

From    : 	Angus Wilson
Sent    : 	Tuesday, January 3, 2006 7:35 PM
To      :,
Subject : 	[NYSBIRDS-L:2703] Status of Barnacle Geese in New York

Thanks to Rob Jett for bring up the issue of Barnacle Geese and their origins.
I should begin by pointing out that the Eisenhower Park (situated in Nassau 
County, Long Island) bird has been seen on the pond below the Korean War 
Memorial almost daily since the beginning of December 2005. Reports are often 
posted on Dianne's (last name?) excellent Long Island Birding Web 

I can confirm that the Eisenhower Park Barnacle Goose is NOT banded and 
appears to have both hindtoes! These are often clipped off by waterfowl 
keepers to indicate captive birds. As to its origins........ well this is 
a very difficult question and something that NYSARC has been thinking 
long-and-hard about.

Most authorities believe there are perhaps a few wild birds reaching the 
eastern Atlantic states and Martime provinces but that there are also plenty 
of escapes wandering about the continent. Some escapes are known and some 
are strongly suspected. The question becomes, for any given bird what is 
its origin? Although a population of Barnacles (~40,000 pairs) breed in 
Greenland, this is on the northeastern coast of this immense island and at 
present there is little evidence that these birds wander to the west coast 
where they might come into contact with Canada Geese (which traditionally 
winter on eastern Long Island) or Greenland White-fronted Geese. Of course, 
with more research this perception might change.

Given the uncertainties, NYSARC has taken a cautious approach (mirrored by 
almost every other state or provincial records committee) and has accepted 
most of the reports with the qualifier 'origins uncertain'. This should not 
detract from the importance of the sightings (it is NOT a rejection) but 
simply acknowledges the realities of dealing with a very attractive goose 
that is popular with waterfowl collectors.

Although there are uncertainties, it is very important for us to gather data 
on the numbers of Barnacle Geese occuring in the state each year. Are their 
patterns to their occurance? Are we seeing the same few birds returning in 
successive winters? Consequently, all sightings should be submitted to NYSARC,
including birds seen during the warmer months. There have been recent reports 
of a summering Barnacle Goose from Connecticut and it is likely summer 
occurrances are under reported due to natural assumptions about the origins. 
Likewise, we would really like to hear from aviculturists or their friends, 
who might have lost (or released) waterfowl including Barnacle Geese.

To date, NYSARC has only reviewed 12 sightings (1979-2003, involving up to 
four birds in a group) from various parts of the state. In reality there are 
many more sightings than this and it is unfortunate that we do not receive a 
fuller data set for the permanent record. There are many people around the 
country interested in the patterns of Barnacle Goose occurance and they look 
to vetted reports for their raw data.

You can find details of the Barnacle Goose reports we have received by 
following this link:

Two additional sightings from 2003 will be described in the 2003 NYSARC 
Annual Report that will be published in spring issue of The Kingbird.

Cheers, Angus Wilson
New York City