Branta bernicla hrota, B. b. nigricans

Status: Rare casual spring and fall migrant statewide.

Documentation: specimen: nigricans, HMM 2557, 10 Nov 1916 Phillips, Hamilton Co;  photograph: hrota, 29 Oct 2017, Burt Co.

Taxonomy: Taxonomy has been controversial, especially in North America, where 3-4 distinct breeding populations occur that are not easily assigned to current subspecies concepts. A conservative position is taken by most authorities, who recognize three subspecies, one in Eurasia (bernicla) and two in North America, hrota and nigricans (Lewis et al 2020, Gill et al 2020, Clements et al 2019). Lewis et al (2020) describe four “stocks” of Brant breeding in North America, each of which has separate ranges; some of these stocks may at some point be elevated to species status.

The subspecies and associated stocks are: hrota, including two stocks, one (“Atlantic Brant”) breeding in eastern North American mid- and low Arctic, wintering on the US Atlantic coast, and the other (“Eastern High Arctic Brant”) breeding on Canadian High Arctic Islands and wintering in Ireland, and nigricans, also including two stocks, one (“Black Brant”) breeding in the Canadian Low Arctic and northwestern Alaska, wintering on the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Mexico, and the other (“Gray-bellied” or “Western High Arctic Brant”) breeding on the Parry Islands in the High Arctic of western Canada and wintering at Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast. Genetically and geographically, Gray-bellied Brant may be intermediate between hrota and nigricans (Lewis et al 2020).

Spring:  There are six documented records as well as eight additional reports that fit the pattern of the documented reports. All are in the period 2 Feb-22 Apr, and include two documented reports of nigricans, both possibly referable to the same individual. See Comments.

2-3 Feb 2013 Hastings, Adams Co nigricans (Brogie 2014)

22 Feb 1998 Kearney Co (Brogie 1999)

4-6 Mar 2011 Hastings, Adams Co nigricans (Brogie 2012)

20 Mar 2003 Lexington, Dawson Co (Silcock 2003)

21 Mar 1988 Funk WPA, Phelps Co (Mollhoff 1989)

22 Apr 1990 Phelps Co (Grenon 1990).

Undocumented reports are of two on 18 Feb 1968 between Kearney, Buffalo Co, and Darr, Dawson Co (Cortelyou 1968), 14 Mar 2004 Rowe Sanctuary, Buffalo Co, 18 Mar 1959 Nemaha Co, 26 Mar 1957 Adams Co, 26 Mar 1960 Webster Co (Turner 1960), 30 Mar 1952 Adams Co, 30 Mar 1958 Buffalo Co, and 20 Apr 1952 Butler Co.

Fall:   There are nine documented reports as well as seven additional reports that fit the pattern of the documented reports. All are in the period 7 Oct-19 Dec, and include three documented reports of nigricans.  See Comments.

7 Oct 1930 Kearney, Buffalo Co (Brooking 1934)

28 Oct 2017 one shot and photographed Burt Co hrota (Brogie 2018)

7 Nov 2019 one shot and photographed Clay Co hrota (Brogie 2020)

10 Nov 1916 Phillips, Hamilton Co nigricans (cited above)

30 Nov 1910 (12) Dawes Co (Zimmer 1911)

23 Nov 1999 Lake Minatare, Scotts Bluff Co nigricans (Jorgensen 2001)

Nov 2002 near Columbus, Platte Co (Omaha World Herald photo)

7 Dec-6 Jan 1988-89 DeSoto NWR, Washington Co (Silcock 1989)

16 Dec 2002 Lake Chappell, Deuel Co juvenile nigricans (Silcock 2003).

Undocumented reports are three on 9 Nov 1895 at Omaha, Douglas Co (Bruner et al 1904), one killed at Clear Creek WMA, Keith Co Nov or Dec 1986 (Rosche 1994), three on 19 Dec 1967 Clear Creek WMA (Rosche 1994), an undated report of one shot on the Platte River near Omaha (Bruner et al 1904), one  reported in the Lake McConaughy, Keith Co region in 1960 (Rosche 1994), another among a flock of three killed near Lewellen, Garden Co (Rosche 1994), and one shot 1960-61 at Kingsley Dam, Lake McConaughy, listed as “Black Brant” (Fuller 1961).


HMM: Hastings Municipal Museum
NWR: National Wildlife Refuge
WMA: Waterfowl Management Area (State)
WPA: Waterfowl Production Area (Federal)


Photograph (top) of a Brant at Lake Hastings, Adams Co 3 Feb 2013 by Mark A. Brogie.

Literature Cited

Brogie, M.A. 1999. 1998 (Tenth) Report of the NOU Records Committee.  NBR 67: 141-152.

Brogie, M.A. 2020. 2019 (31st) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 88: 124-134.

Brogie, M.A. 2012. 2011 (23rd) Report of the NOU Records Committee.  NBR 80: 112-122.

Brogie, M.A. 2014. 2013 (25th) Report of the NOU Records Committee.  NBR 82: 131-146.

Brogie, M.A. 2018. 2017 (29th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 86: 131-142.

Brooking, A.M. 1934. A recent Nebraska record of the American Brant.  NBR 2: 60.

Bruner, L., R.H. Wolcott, and M.H. Swenk. 1904. A preliminary review of the birds of Nebraska, with Synopses.   Klopp and Bartlett, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Clements, J.F., T.S. Schulenberg, M.J. Iliff, S.M. Billerman, T.A. Fredericks, B.L. Sullivan, and C.L Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019.; accessed Aug 2020.

Cortelyou, R.G. 1968. Bald Eagles. NBR 36: 67-68.

Fuller, H.C. 1961. Excerpts from letters. NBR 29: 57.

Gill, F., D. Donsker, and P. Rasmussen (Eds). 2020. IOC World Bird List (v10.2). doi : 10.14344/IOC.ML.10.2.

Grenon, A.G. 1990. 1990 (Third) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 58: 90-97.

Lewis, T.L., D.H. Ward, J.S. Sedinger, A. Reed, D.V. Derksen, C. Carboneras, D.A. Christie, and G.M. Kirwan. 2020. Brant (Branta bernicla), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Mollhoff, W.J. 1989. Second report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 57: 42-47.

Rosche, R.C. 1994. Birds of the Lake McConaughy area and the North Platte River valley, Nebraska.  R.C. Rosche, Chadron, Nebraska, USA.

Silcock, W.R. 1989. Brant at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge. Iowa Bird Life 59: 88.

Silcock, W.R. 2003. Winter Field report, December 2002 to February 2003. NBR 71: 2-24.

Silcock. W.R. 2003. Spring Field report, March-May 2003. NBR 71: 58-96.

Turner, H. 1960. Rare birds at Bladen. NBR 28: 53-54.

Zimmer, J.T. 1911. Some notes on the winter birds of Dawes County. Proceedings of the Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union 5: 19-30.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2021.  Brant (Branta bernicla). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 17 Mar 2021