Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

Branta Canadensis

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Their steady honking chorus announces their presence long before you see them.

Looking up in the direction of their airborne ruckus, there they are – Branta Canadensis – Canada Geese – squadrons drifting overhead in”V” formation – a certain sign of changing seasons.

In spring and summer they feed mostly on land, grazing on the leaves of grassy plants and a wide variety flowers, stems, roots, seeds and berries. They are gluttons frequently gorging themselves 12 hours a day or more.

Country geese, those that stay the winter, chow down in fields of spilled corn, oats, soybeans and other crops. When these energy-rich foods are available, they often dine in the fields for a few hours in early morning and late afternoon and spend the rest of the day resting in safety on a lake or large river. City geese graze on lawns, in parks, and on golf courses. They don’t care about predators like their country cousins. These geese are much more civilized.

They can travel more than 1000 km a day when migrating. With wingspans varying between 90 cm and 2 m these superb fliers sound out a deep ka-lunk aloft, each member in the formation doing their bit to be heard.

Flying in diagonal lines or ragged “V” formations serves two purposes. Most important, it helps them save energy and fly longer distances. Scientists believe Canada Geese fly in a “V” because of the “drafting” effect, where the follower goose, like a cyclist in a race, benefits from the air currents passing the leader, and thus expends less energy. A secondary function is coordination of the flock’s movements, allowing changes in flight speed or direction to be communicated quickly and efficiently to everyone in formation

But their takeoff from a standing position is the most amazing thing. They rise above the ground helter skelter, a cacophony of calls urging their brothers and sisters on, higher and higher with no apparent plan or purpose. Such disorganization! The leader‘s latent instinct charts a course and takes a heading. The others trustingly follow. They are flying in ragged bunches now. There is no order.

And suddenly, out of the chaos, each bird finds its place in two diagonal lines. They achieve symmetry, balance, purpose and direction. And not one of them questions the leader. They achieve “V” in a matter of minutes. Unification. Single-minded purpose. Trust. Resolve. From confusion comes coherence. You have to admire their determination.

Given the times we are currently living in and the folly of politicians and money-men, the truth in the flight of Canada Geese can teach us a thing or two.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

October 10, 2008 at 12:44 AM

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