Introducing a new feature on the Denver Zoo blog, Feathered Friend Friday! While this series used to be on our Facebook page, we are excited to move it into our new blog format. This project is led by a zookeeper in our bird department, Jennifer, who has been very dedicated to providing us with excellent information about specific birds that live at Denver Zoo. She collaborates with other keepers to share her passion for birds with our followers. Thank you Jennifer!
This week’s Feathered Friend is “Sage,” a Pacific Brant goose (Branta bernicla) also known as the black brant or brent. He is 15 years old and has lived at Denver Zoo since 1999. Sage, like the 2014 Olympic gold medal winner Sage Kotsenburg, is very cold hardy so you can visit him in any season – even on snowy days. The breeding grounds of the Brant goose are in the cold Arctic tundra. Sage is the most amiable and gregarious goose in the Primate Panorama Forest Aviary. He can often be seen with the swan geese to the bar-headed geese, and is almost always hanging out with another bird. The only birds he does not seem to enjoy the company of are the very young and boisterous Nene geese.
There are three subspecies of Brant geese and Sage belongs to the Pacific Brant goose from North America. They are migratory and nest in Alaska and winter in warm Baja California. This is a spectacular migration of approximately 3,000 miles. It has also been reported to have taken some individuals only 60 hours to complete the journey. That is equivalent to a person driving the same distance straight through in a car traveling at 50 mph with no bathroom breaks.
In the wild they eat predominantly eelgrass as well as seaweed and sea lettuce. Eelgrass became less common due to a disease it suffered in the 1930’s, so in recent years they have adjusted their diet to include lawn grass and some agricultural grains. They seldom stray far from the coastal salt water estuaries and marshes. They even have a special salt gland that enables them to drink salt water. At the zoo, Sage eats a specially formulated waterfowl pellet. His favorite treat is lettuce and he will eat it chopped or even enjoy an entire head of Romaine!
You can visit Sage anytime in the Primate Panorama Forest Aviary located near the Great Apes Building.