Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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[Mystery bird] Barnacle Goose, known in Finnish as Valkoposkihanhi, Branta leucopsis, photographed on Suomenlinna, Helsinki, Finland. [I will identify this bird for you in 48 hours]

Image: GrrlScientist, 16 May 2010 [larger view]

Canon SX100 IS.

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

I photographed this lovely mystery bird a couple days ago in stunning Helsinki, Finland, can you ID the species and tell me how it got its peculiar English common name?

This goose was once thought to start life as Goose Barnacles growing on driftwood — perhaps because no one had ever seen it nesting (not surprising, since it breeds in the Arctic).

Review all mystery birds to date.


  1. #1 bardiac
    May 20, 2010

    Hmm, I have this urge to sing “Sittin’ on the rock of the bay, watching the tide roll away.”

    I wonder how these guys got their common name?

  2. #2 Adrian
    May 20, 2010

    Bardiac, It is called after it’s crustacean namesake because it was thought that the young attached themselves to wood and hung upside down under water until they grew their feathers when they then dropped off and flew away. The resemblance of the bird’s head to the crustacean led to the crustacean being called “Goose ——–“.

  3. #3 apikoros
    May 20, 2010

    Bardiac, I’d tell you how it got its common name. “Bill the Sailor” but I think Grrl would ban me for life 🙂

    (of course, it may just be my filthy folk-singing mind… After all, I know more than a couple of verses to “The Ballard of Eskimo Nell” as well)

  4. #4 Pete Moulton
    May 21, 2010

    Beautiful shot, Grrl Scientist! I know about Bill the Sailor, but Eskimo Nell?

  5. #5 "GrrlScientist"
    May 22, 2010

    adrian’s answer is more poetic than mine — i am not very poetic in the middle of the night, even if the sun is still peeking above the horizon.

    thanks for the compliment on the photo, pete! the more i looked at this bird and her mate, the more i realized how absolutely gorgeous they are. i hope i managed to capture that.

  6. #6 Pete Moulton
    May 23, 2010

    You did, in spades, Grrl Scientist. Someday I’ll have to travel to Europe, so I can see, and maybe photograph, some Barnacle Geese too.

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