Geese migration indicates spring is near

Published 6:00 am Friday, February 23, 2018

According to the calendar, spring is about a month away. Spring officially begins this year on March 20. I am a nature observer and trust in animal and plant instincts more than the weather network.

I recently spent a few days with my son and grandkids who have moved into a large house on a 12 acre farm just outside of Louisville. My first clue that spring is truly very near came from the v-line flocks of geese passing overhead, pointed due north. I decided to do a little research on geese. The information I gained from a website called American Expedition.

Canadian geese are the largest of the geese species of the world. They weigh over twenty pounds and live an average of 15-25 years in the wild, with some living as long as 30 years. In captivity, at least one goose is documented to have lived 40 years.

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Geese mate for life. Only if their partner dies will they begin to look for a new mate.

Geese fly north to their familiar breeding and nesting grounds in the spring to produce offspring. According to the website, “Canada geese like to select nesting sites on elevated, secluded area near bodies of water like lakes, streams, and ponds. The female goose builds a nest lined with plant material and down that she plucks from her body and lays an egg each day in until a full clutch of five or so eggs is laid. The male goose acts as sentry, watching the nest from a nearby location.”

When a baby goose hatches, called a gosling, the mother will lead it to water within 24 hours to learn how to swim. Within a day, they can dive underwater between 30-40 feet. Goslings are also known to follow the first thing that moves after they hatch and think that thing is their mother – like a dog, a cat, or even a human.

Geese are very protective of their offspring. They will stretch out their necks, honk, scream, or use their wings to hit invaders, even human ones.

Geese mostly eat plants and grain but do occasionally eat insects and fish.

The reason for geese migration is for warmer weather in the winter months. They need open waters in which to swim so they can swim away from land predators. They also need the water to be able to dive for food. Too far north and the surface of lakes, ponds, streams, and even rivers become frozen over, leaving geese vulnerable to attack and without access to important food sources.

Geese fly south for the winter, and north for summer. They fly at a speed of about 40 miles per hour, but according to the website, may reach a speed of up to 70 miles per hour if they catch a good tail wind. They fly at an altitude of 2,000 to 3,000 feet normally,

The many flocks I observed migrating north in just a few days were definitely lower than that across the open Indiana farmland. Their grace and beauty in the sky is impressive. The lead bird at the head of the V formation will sometimes fall back and let another bird take the lead. If a goose falls out of formation, other geese will stay behind until that goose recovers.

Fascinating, family oriented, intelligent creatures that they are, I believe the instinct God put within them to know when it is warm enough and safe enough to fly back to their northern homes is a dependable sign that spring is truly near.

Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Judith Victoria Hensley at or on Facebook. Check out her blog: One Step Beyond the Door.