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Press release: (The Los Angeles Times Syndicate) Winged mystery solved: Scientists in France say they have solved the mystery of why birds fly in a "V" formation as they travel long distances. The team from the National Center for Scientific Research in Villiers en Bois taped heart monitors to several migratory pelicans and found that their heartbeat was significantly lower while flying in the distinctive formation. Pelicans were also found to be able to glide more often with the aerodynamic help given from the flapping of other birds' wings. The resulting energy savings are thought to be crucial for the migrating birds, which can spend thousands of miles on the wing. Flying in a "V" also appears to allow birds to communicate more easily with each other.

Wildlife Whispers...

Canada Geese: Canada's Gift to the World

by Dee Walmsley,
Clever's Nature Writer

Canada Geese 
Image Credit: Nancy Fox

Whether you like them or not Canada Geese, like their native homeland, are beautiful. An identifying white cheek patch flashes from the long ebony neck of both gander [male] and goose [female]. At the base of the neck the black feathers are bonded by another white chest patch before molding into a milk chocolate over-lay of guard feathers on their backs. The breast and belly colors are white to grayish-brown ending with a white rump patch, and black legs and feet. Hidden beneath this shingled mass is the down, a bird’s insulation. This is protected by oil secreted from a gland at the base of its tail and spread through the feathers by preening, [aligning the feathers with the bird’s beak]. Together, this procedure waterproofs the geese. 

Watching a gaggle of these magnificent birds honking their way south is a sure sign fall is in the air. This  “V” flight formation has some interesting facts.        

Image credit: Robert Savannah

Canada Geese mate for life. A protective gander defending his mate can deliver a blow using his wing with enough force to break a man’s arm. They build their nest of twigs and grasses on the ground near water. The goose lays a clutch of cream-colored eggs that hatch 28 days later into goslings. Within 24 hours the young are swimming and eating with their parents.

The family group migrates together and will return to the same nesting area year after year. The yearlings must then move on and find their own territory where at the age of three they will mate, nest, and begin their own families.  

For centuries, hunters and wild predators kept the birds' numbers in check. However, habitat loss forced the geese into urban environments where without predators their numbers increased at alarming rates. Today these majestic birds are viewed by many as pests. They eat crops and foul parks and golf courses with their feces. Droppings also pollute urban water supplies and swimming areas. Over-feeding often destroys landscaping in parks and recreational areas.  Fortunately every problem has a solution, even for a loose goose.

1.     Don’t feed waterfowl.
2.     Report nests to the authorities so the eggs may be addled.
3.     Allow grasses to grow – geese like well manicured areas.
4.     Seek expert advice on using harassment techniques like dogs, pyrotechnics, and chemical repellents.
5.     Check with municipal laws for culling and giving the birds to food banks.
6.     Hunters also play a role in controlling populations.

We all have a part to play in protecting and managing our wild things.  If we do it right there will always be a gaggle of geese trumpeting the onset of autumn over the land.

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