On the sixth day of Christmas we’re here to talk about geese. However, I find geese a’flying more interesting than geese just a’sitting around, so let’s take a look at that. Particularly the epic journey that the Canada Goose makes for their annual migration.
In the winter, geese live primarily in Canada. Things are green, warm, and the play and frolic the days away. However, as the temperature turns colder in the autumn you can look to the sky and see the flying V’s of squawking birds. They fly in a V shape for aerodynamic reasons. Just like a champion cyclist in the Tour de France, they can “draft” in the wake of the lead bird to have an easier time flying. The leader takes the brunt of the air resistance, and everybody else gets to conserve energy. Sharing the burden, the leader will drop to the back and be replaced by a new trailblazer.
Geese have been tracked flying up to 1000 kilometres in a day. I find it a chore to even drive that far in a day! The ability of migrating birds to navigate over such long distances is still not fully understood, though it has been found that they have a compass in their head. Somehow they can feel the magnetic fields of the earth and guide themselves like a compass needle even in the dark, cloudy, stormy weather.
This was confirmed with an experiment that disoriented birds when they were kept in an artificial magnetic field before setting out to fly. However, it also revealed that birds recalibrate themselves each evening as the sun sets, using the setting sun to get thier bearings. Even the magnetically confused birds were shown to make drastic turns at that time, after whici their navigation was back in business.
A flock of geese will be set in their ways in that they move between the same two spots every year. However, some groups of geese have become lazy living in California all year round, where it never gets too cold or too hot for them.