I had been loosely following the Barnacle Goose posts on the Va.
listserv, but didn't see any posts regarding how the legitimacy
of the bird had been established. Since most Barnacle Geese outside
of the maritime provinces are written off as escapees, I had to
wonder about the furor surrounding this particular bird, so I posted
an RFI to that regard and mentioned that I would like to hear an opinion
regarding this specific bird from someone on the Va. records committee.
Steve Rottenborn from the Va. committee responded publicly to the
Va. listserv, so I've included his response below my post.
Because of some birds that had been reported in NJ last week, I made
a spur-of-the-moment decision to run to Cape May on Saturday and because
there had been some mounting evidence to substantiate that the Va. Barnacle
Goose may be truly wild, I also planned on looking for it on my way
home. But, I happened to run into Paul Lehman in Cape May and after
hearing some enlightening insights of his regarding Barnacle Goose
I opted not to look for it. Besides Steve Rottenborn's post, there
have been some other interesting posts on the Va. listserv regarding
Barnacle Geese sightings in the past and the current crop of sightings.
Regardless of the true nature of the bird in Va., the posts regarding
Barnacle Geese makes for some interesting reading. Steve's post is
And after seeing 30 mph, bumper-to-bumper traffic lined up on east-bound
I-70 all the way from the I-70/270 split, to almost Hagerstown, I may not
have made it home until today if I had ventured down that way. I don't
know what route Matt took to get out of there, but 495 and 270 must have
been a mess.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Steve and Heather Rottenborn [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: Sunday, February 03, 2002 10:01 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]; [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [va-bird] RFI: Barnacle Goose legitimacy
> In a message dated 2/3/02 7:16:50 AM Central Standard Time, [log in to unmask]
> > I don't want to sound like a stick in the mud here, and I'm game for a
> > drive to Va., but how has it been determined that this bird is not an
> > escapee?
> Although I'm a member of the Virginia Avian Records Committee (VARCOM), my
> reply is intended to convey my opinion alone and does not represent an
> official view of VARCOM.
> In the case of this Barnacle Goose, there is no way to establish for
> whether or not it is an escapee or a naturally occurring individual. Just
> because it's not banded, its toes all seem to be intact, and it shows no
> abnormal feather wear does not mean that it's naturally occurring. Many
> obvious escapees I've seen in North America (e.g., free-flying African
> finches, flamingos, and Black Swans in California) have similarly shown no
> signs of prior captivity, yet the probability of natural occurrence in
> cases was nil.
> Barnacle Geese are not too rare in captive waterfowl collections. I don't
> know how many are kept in captivity on the East Coast, but in a brief
> perusal of the web I found several sites (those I found were in Tennessee,
> Kentucky, and Oklahoma, though I didn't do a thorough search) for
> farms selling Barnacle Geese for $125 each. Not all captive waterfowl are
> pinioned, banded, or clipped, and I'm sure that some of these geese escape
> from time to time.
> On the other hand, Barnacle Goose is a legitimate candidate for natural
> vagrancy to Virginia, and I have no doubt that some of the birds seen in
> North America, particularly on the East Coast in winter, are naturally
> occurring birds from Greenland. I've heard second- and third-hand reports
> of Barnacle Geese in several northeastern states this winter, and perhaps
> there has been a genuine influx of naturally occurring Barnacle Geese into
> the East Coast of North America this winter. If this could be proven
> if a Barnacle Goose banded in Greenland last summer were to be found in
> England this winter), this would lend more credence to the natural
> occurrence argument for the Fairfax bird.
> For records committees, the question of whether or not to accept an
> individual Barnacle Goose as being a naturally occurring bird comes down
> probability. What is the probability that it is a naturally occurring
> vs. an escapee that is not banded or toe-clipped? Unfortunately, we don't
> have enough data on either side of the argument to make more than a guess.
> More conservative/cautious VARCOM members would probably vote to accept
> bird in Category 3, meaning that the identification has been established
> that the bird could possibly be naturally occurring but that it may also
> an escapee. In the absence of other information, either suggesting that
> is a naturally occurring bird or an escapee, this is how I would probably
> vote on this particular record. Other members may vote to accept it as a
> naturally occurring bird, so I don't know what VARCOM as a whole would
> decide on this record.
> Regardless of the origin of this bird or the arguments for or against its
> natural occurrence, two things are most important to keep in mind. First,
> it's a great-looking bird, one that doesn't show up in a "wild",
> condition in the state very often, one that a lot of birders would like to
> see, and one that has obviously brought a lot of Virginia (and DC, MD, and
> WV) birders closer through communication about it. I'd like to see it,
> I'd urge anyone who wants to see it, photograph it, and count it on
> list they keep to do so regardless of its origin and regardless of what
> VARCOM eventually says about it.
> Second, it is important for people who see the bird to document this
> occurrence through written descriptions, photographs, and video and to
> submit this documentation to VARCOM. The most important, yet often
> overlooked, function of VARCOM is to archive documentation of the state's
> avifauna for future reference. In the case of species such as Barnacle
> Geese, in which the bird could be either an escapee or a naturally
> individual, the Committee's archival role is much more important than
> deciding whether or not the bird should be accepted as a naturally
> individual. Decades from now, records committees may look back on the
> documentation of the Fairfax bird as important in helping to establish a
> pattern of natural vagrancy by Barnacle Geese. Please, if you see this
> bird, submit a written description to VARCOM, and if you have photos of
> bird, please submit those as well.
> Steve Rottenborn
> Dale City, VA
> [log in to unmask]
From: Matt Orsie [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Monday, February 18, 2002 9:32 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Barnacle Goose
If you haven't heard there's a Barnacle Goose who's been hanging around
the Alexandria, VA
area for a couple of months now. I've tried 4 times to see it and finally
had success at 2:15pm
today in the Cameron Run Regional Park. It was in the mini-golf pond with
Canada Geese. All indications
would point to a wild bird since there isn't a tag but that is speculation
on my part. In any event if you've
never seen one of these beautiful birds before here's your chance to see an
accidental. Best odds around
the park seem to be in the 12 noon and later timeframe. Directions to
Cameron Run can be found on the
web. Good luck....
Summit Point, WV