Blogs / moo's blog / Brian's Collared Banded Goose!

Brian's Collared Banded Goose!

moo's picture

By (moo) -


So, here's an interesting story!

Beefy shoots this beauty of a Speck, and when he goes to retrieve it, he finds that it's wearing a huge red collar! (Photo credits to Chandler Brown... nice photo Chandler!)

So the first I hear of it, Beefy is texting me, asking if I took a picture last year of a banded goose. After a bit of searching, I find a few photos like the geese-in-flight picture attached.

I send it to him, and he gets even more excited, because his goose might be the very same one in my photo!

Well, there's no way to know for sure, but this sets us to wondering how likely that might be (i.e., how rare are these collars on Specks? Well, what happened next taught me a couple of things.

  1. The waterfowl biologists that work for the Fish & Wildlife Service and the USGS are a bunch of really nice people who seem to enjoy talking with us waterfowlers!
  2. Waterfowl-ologists call the Speck a "Greater White-Fronted Goose" or GWFG for short in their scientific reports. (but sometimes they say "specks" in conversation, just like we do)
  3. Beefy's collar is in fact quite rare!

So, I started with a call to a fellow named Walt, who was very helpful in pointing me in the proper direction towards finding a GWFG-scientist who could tell us about the origins of the red collar.

Next I emailed a fellow in Anchorage named Dennis. This guy is amazing... he actually jumps in a tiny plane, flies up to the farthest-north part of ALASKA (basically the NORTH POLE) with some friends, jumps out, and then grabs (carefully!) a bunch of geese and bands them! He even wrote a paper, "Midcontinent Greater White-fronted Goose Banding in Alaska, 2013," about how they do it!

His phone number was listed in that report, so I tried it out and left him a message. Well, the crazy thing is that Dennis called me back! ON MY PHONE! I felt like I was talking to a serious real-life rock star, but way cooler than that. I mean, this guy catches the birds we shoot WITH HIS BARE HANDS!

Whew, anyway, once I calmed down and collected my wits, we had a very nice conversation, and Dennis looked up Beefy's ACTUAL BIRD in his bird-ologist-database! He was able to tell me that even though this bird was tagged in the same neighborhood where he and his guys were banding, that this one was not one of theirs, and that had been tagged by another scientist who lives in Anchorage.

So Beefy's bare-handed-speck-catcher's name is Brandt. I was struck by how cool it is that we had actually found the man who had captured Brian's goose with his own hands!

So I emailed Brandt my inquiry about Brian's speck, and the guy is so cool, he immediately wrote me back this really detailed note:

Hi Jason,

Thanks for contacting me, and for sharing your photos. As far as I know, myself and a colleague here at USGS are the only ones deploying red collars on white-fronts. Actually, I am unaware of anyone else in Alaska or Canada who has recently collared white-fronts...the USFWS collared them in Alaska for a while, but I think that stopped more than 10 years ago. Since 2011 we've deployed about 900 collars in Arctic Alaska...a lot of these were applied to molting birds, but some (including the bird Brian shot) were deployed on nesting females just before their eggs hatched.

A few of our collars also have GPS transmitters attached to them. If you happen to hear of anyone shooting one of those birds, please encourage them get in touch with me (my name and phone number is on the transmitter). We try to get the transmitters back to download the data, but always return them to the hunter.

As far as how rare a red-collared white-front is...that's a tricky one! Assuming an 80% annual survival rate, my guess would be that there are currently around 650 or so red collars out there now. And I think the current estimate for the mid-continent population is somewhere around 3 million birds. So, 650 out of 3 million = roughly 1 in 5,000. Take that with a grain of salt, of course.

Thanks again for getting in touch, and for the band information on Brian's bird. And let me know if you have any other questions.


So don't be afraid to contact our friendly neighborhood Fish & Wildlife Service or USGS scientists.. They're a really nice bunch! (who would like their radio collars back if you find one!)

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
jeb's picture

Thanks for sharing.

Have gun and dog will travel... Wack em and stack em S.W.A.T. style Jack !!!!!

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.