The Flight of the Geese

geeseEvery fall thousands of geese fly from Canada southward even as far as Venezuela to escape the bitterly cold Canadian winter. As soon as a flock of geese take flight from Canadian waters they quickly form a V-shape flying pattern, with one rotating goose in the center lead and all the other geese trailing behind in two close lines.

Wildlife scientists have made some fascinating discoveries:

  • When geese fly together, each goose provides additional lift and reduces air resistance for the goose flying behind it. Consequently, by flying together in a v-formation, the whole flock can fly about 71% farther with the same amount of energy than if each goose flew alone. Geese have discovered that they can reach their destination more quickly and with less energy expended when they fly together in formation.
  • When a goose drops out of the v-formation it quickly discovers that it requires a great deal more effort and energy to fly. Consequently, that goose will quickly return to the formation to take advantage of the lifting power that comes from flying together.
  • The lead goose flying in front of the formation has to expend the most energy because it is the first to break the flow of air that provides the additional lift for all of the geese who follow behind the leader. Consequently, when the lead goose gets tired, it drops out of the front position and moves to the rear of the formation, where the resistance is lightest, and another goose moves to the leadership position. This rotation of position happens many times in the course of the long journey to warmer climates.
  • They also frequently make loud honking sounds as they fly together, the whole team communicating amongst themselves and also encouraging the lead goose during their long flight.
  • When one goose becomes ill, is shot or injured, and drops out of the formation, two other geese will fall out of formation and remain with the weakened goose. They will stay with and protect the injured goose from predators until it is able to fly again or dies. Afterward they will catch up to their formation or join another flock going south.

What an excellent example of solidarity and working in harmony to attain common values and goals. We as humans have much to learn from these graceful and intelligent birds.

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