The Barnacle Goose, a distinctive, handsome black-and-white bird, gets its name from a mediaeval myth that the birds hatched from barnacles – how else to explain their sudden appearance each autumn in northern Britain? We now know, of course, that the birds migrate from Arctic Russia, Norway and Svalbard to winter throughout northern Europe. The Barnacle Goose represents a culmination of more than 25 years of Barnacle Goose research. It represents the story of one of Europe's most celebrated long-term behavioral studies, detailing the lives of these social and sociable birds. Chapters include sections on pair formation and bonding, family and population dynamics, brood parasitism, food and feeding, size and shape in different populations, life cycle, survivorship, dispersal, migration, and conservation, with particular regard to climate change. It is a rigorous and thorough examination of the lives of these birds, in fine Poyser tradition.
"full of information [...] the book teaches you to appreciate the sheer effort put into researching the[se] geese"
– Bird Watching
"This monograph describes the results of work carried out by the authors over more than 35 years, using colour rings to follow the fortunes of individual geese and combining this with other targeted research (e.g. vegetation surveys in feeding areas).
They have studied two of the five Barnacle Goose populations, with most of the book focusing on the Svalbard population which winters around the Solway Firth, including the birds that use WWT Caerlaverock. All five Barnacle Goose populations have been increasing over the period covered, with the Svalbard population growing from 300 in 1948 to 31 000 in 2012.
The book is divided into fifteen chapters, with three introductory chapters, followed by chapters devoted to different aspects of a Barnacle Goose's life and the decisions individuals have to make, ranging from finding long-term partners, feeding, the timing of migration and nesting and the choice of sites to use. It concludes with chapters discussing how these individual choices affect population dynamics, and future conservation issues including potential conflicts with agriculture.
It will be of most interest to those with a scientific background. Readers with a more general background will probably find some of the detail in the text hard to follow, and may also struggle with some of the many graphs and diagrams that support the text. Also included are details of the results of the statistical analyses at the end of each chapter and within an appendix, a list of references and a selection of photos including eight pages in colour.
Whether they have been trained scientifically or not, most readers will be able to learn some interesting facts about Barnacle Goose from this book, e.g. the fact that individuals can be identified by their face patterns, or that just a small proportion of geese produce the majority off offspring, and that around half the population born in one well-studied year failed to raise any young during their lifetime. Having studied the geese for an extended period, the authors clearly know their subject and have packed a lot of academic knowledge into this volume."
- Ian Woodward, BTO book reviews
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Jeff Black is Professor of Wildlife Ecology at Humboldt State University in California, where he specialises in wildfowl behaviour and ecology. Jouke Prop and Kjell Larsson are animal ecologists from the universities of Groningen (Netherlands) and Gotland (Sweden) respectively.