The Canada goose. If you live anywhere in North America you are probably familiar with these large, chin-strapped birds. They are one of the few species that seem to be unaffected by human development. In fact, they seem more than happy to call humans their neighbors - although the feeling is not always mutual.
I grew up in a suburb outside of Cleveland where you were just as likely to be stopped by a family of Canada geese crossing the street as you were to be stopped by a train at the tracks. An oxymoron, the geese were as spectacular to look at as they were a nuisance. During middle school, my brother and I ran a cross country meet that required you to run two loops around a pond on a community college campus, prime real estate for Canada geese. After the race, we both had to go home barefoot because my mom did not want to get goose poop all over the car.
I realized during my master's degree though, that I had completely overlooked this species during my childhood. I was staying at a field site in the Catskills of New York eating my supper near a pond and witnessed something incredible. As I sat there, I noticed a flock of geese gathering next to me. Two geese flew to the other side of the pond and began honking. Immediately, the geese to my left began honking back and getting into a V-formation with a group of geese still gathered behind them.
The geese honked across the pond and within the "V" for about a minute. I could not help but chuckle to myself as they reminded me of the take off scene in the movie Airplane!, where Roger, Victor, and Clarence talk to mission control. (The two geese already in the pond being mission control, and the geese honking information being Roger, Victor, and Clarence.) The honks within the "V" reminded me of Roger, Victor, and Clarence asking "huh?" in the cockpit; while, the louder ones between the geese in the pond and the "V" were the geese giving and receiving liftoff commands.
After the minute of intense honking, the "V' took up and landed near mission control. As the "V" landed, the second group began to get into formation and the honking began all over again. Immediately following, I was compelled to call my parents and share with them the spectacle I had just witnessed. Unfortunately, they thought I had gone of the deep end and found it to be hysterical. "Amy, did you decide to try any mushrooms while you were in the forest?" and, "When was the last time you spoke to a person?" Ugh.
In their defense, I was REALLY excited about what I had witnessed and thought it was both extremely interesting and hilarious. After calming down and explaining my disbelief that I had grown up with Canada geese and never paid attention to their behavior and this behavior was exactly like Airplane!, a favorite of my dad's, my parents seemed to appreciate the story in the way I had hoped. Although, they still tease me about it to this day...
About the Author
Amy Hruska is the creator of Beasts & Leaves and currently a researcher in the Department of Botany at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Thoughts and opinions expressed above are her own.
For more information about Amy visit: amyhruska.weebly.com