The extensive mudflats and tidal marshes of Jamaica Bay on the outskirts of New York City provide superb opportunities to study wintering Atlantic (Pale-bellied) Brant. In excess of 10,000 birds use the bay and surrounding short grass areas (parks, golf courses etc) from late fall into mid-May. During the last few years we have discovered a number of Black Brant among these these flocks, with a maximum of three individuals during the winter of 1996/97.
Here are a series of photos of an adult that we found on the rather late date of 19 May 2001. It was roosting on the bar at Terrapin Point, just west of the West Pond at Jamaica Bay NWR and then moved out into the bay when the tide dropped. Interestingly, we also noticed a family group of Atlantic Brant (2 adults and 3 first years) all of which were banded (ringed). By tracing these individuals we may have a better idea of where the birds that use Jamaica Bay breed. Conceivably, these birds might be from the western side of the Atlantic Brant nesting range and thus perhaps more likely to collect the odd Black Brant?
Note about the photographs: All images were taken through a Kowa TSN-4 scope (40-50x) and captured using a Nikon Coolpix 880 digital camera. They are copyright of Angus Wilson©2001 (all rights reserved), and may not be used without permission.
Figure 1. Adult Black Brant (foreground) with Atlantic Brant on 19 May 2001 at Jamaica Bay NWR, New York. The dark apron extends well beyond the legs, almost onto the vent. Notice the more clearly defined neck collar compared to the Atlantic Brant. As with previous birds, the wing coverts, scapulars and mantle feather appear slightly darker than on Atlantic Brant's of the same age.
Figure 2. Head-on view showing the underside of the neck and dark apron that almost seems to blend into the very dark neck sock.
Figure 3. Side views of Atlantic Brant (left) and Black Brant (right). Again notice the extensive dark belly which is easily seen when the bird is viewed from behind. The prominent collar is still visible when the bird is at rest.
Figure 4. Another view of the Black Brant's flank.
Figure 5. Side-profile of an adult Atlantic/Pale-bellied Brant for comparison.
Figure 6. A view of the Black Brant's left side, showing that the coloration and size of the pale patch are relatively symmetrical.
Figure 7. Even when swimming the bird can be picked out by the dark flank, slightly darker (blacker) coloration overall and more striking neck collar.
Figure 8. Nice view of the vent region!
Photographs and page layout copyright
of Angus Wilson© 2001 All rights
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