Wednesday 29 March 2017

Why Geese Are Actually Amazing

Charismatic Goose
   Of all the fears a human being can experience, the most daft and embarrassing is that of Coulrophobia. Nobody, and I stress nobody, who will explain in depth to you about the terror that takes control of their body upon witnessing a clown should be taken seriously – I’d suggest these people simply didn’t get enough attention as children.

   A second phobia which I find less puzzling, and one which always provides a great chance to show off my vocabulary, is Ornithophobia. Whilst I personally find birds to be endlessly fascinating, their behaviour enchanting, it does make sense to me that some will find the unpredictability of their movements disconcerting. An enraged swan in a park, feeling that their offspring are threatened or personal space invaded, is truly an intimidating site to behold. You wouldn’t, to use a Yorkshire term, fuck with a swan.

   One bird that has always, until recently, struck me as spectacularly aggressive is the goose – in my experience, Toulouse and Canadian geese in particular have a propensity to become agitated in public spaces. Stray geese, frightened or intimated by members of the public, will lower their neck and point their faces directly at their target before emitting loud, ferocious warnings. It’s not rare for them to charge directly at the humans pissing them off and, more often than not, this does a great job of clearing the geese’s irritants out of their way at least temporarily.

A goose's eye

Goose beak in profile

   With this said, geese are actually not at all as terrible as my previous paragraph would suggest. Like most animals and birds, a small amount of study reveals them to be marvelous creatures with great intelligence, social cohesion and, of course, behaviours we humans may consider rather eccentric at times. Their behaviour is also much kinder than, for example, the sometimes tawdry antics of ducks.

   Perhaps my favourite thing to note about geese is the compassion the birds share with one another and how they often work together to achieve goals – it’s like communism without the gulags or garish propaganda. (Not that, my life’s goal isn’t to see an avian remake of the North Korean immortal classic movie The Flower Girl.)

   Take, for example, the formation geese travel in – peering to the skies, we can see they fly in a V-shape. This is not a random pattern or something done solely for tradition or aesthetic's sake. In this formation, one selected for aerodynamism, the birds at the front create uplift for their fellow fliers further back in the squadron; if one bird tires, another takes its place. Their kinship and compassion shines through, too, in the way geese will care for one another - if one goose becomes sick or wounded, others will wait with them, offering protection, until they are each fit to return to the skies. If geese operate with a "no man left behind" policy, why aren't we humans far more embarrassed at the social Darwinism we promote in modern neo-liberal societies?

   The primary reason I've always observed for causing Geese to lose their tempers only adds to the notion that they're actually rather wonderful. They're most likely to point their next straight at you and charge, letting out their alarming honking sound, when they feel their families are under threat. These are birds which take the nuclear family very seriously; unlike a lot of animals, including many humans, Geese are wonderfully monogamous too - they usually pair off at around the age of three with a partner they will keep for life. If tragedy strikes, a goose will often mourn the death of their partner for years, some never moving on to a new mate at all.

   Geese are also far more Woke than many of us humans when it comes to family dynamics. Both the mother and the father will take equal turns raising their goslings. The patriarchy ain't a thing in these birds' communities. Chivalry, however, is - male geese have been seen time and time again to go out of the way to protect their other halves from danger, throwing themselves into perilous positions to protect the mother of their children.

   In short, not only are Geese amongst the most loving birds, they're also animals we could do well to learn from. The next time you speak to an Ornithophobiac, tell them how wonderful and amazing these special birds are and that they have nothing to fear. Unless, of course, they threaten the Geese's young.


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