Goose Music

Late autumn and winter aren’t necessarily my favorite seasons, but as summers are turning hotter and less bearable, I welcome the opportunity to once again feel cool enough to don warm garments. After all, one is able to take off only so many clothes in the heat, but can always add another layer when cold.

Besides sartorial considerations, the arrival of waterfowl on our local bodies of water is a reason to celebrate the frostier, darker time of year. As a general rule, many geese and ducks in the northern hemisphere breed at northern latitudes—some as far north as the Arctic—before heading south to more clement climes to pass the chillier calendar months. They come by the dozens, hundreds, and thousands and wherever they go, announce their presence with clamor and exuberance.

The honking of geese is legendary—remember Rome’s Capitoline Geese? Those geese were guarding a temple dedicated to Roman Goddess Juno on Capitoline Hill, one of Rome’s legendary seven hills, and were considered sacred themselves. During a siege by the Gauls in the 4th century BC, the geese, unlike the guard dogs who supposedly slept through the ordeal, recognized the invading Gallic forces and raised a ruckus, thereby alerting Rome’s defenders, which prevented the city from being sacked—at least on this occasion. To this day, geese are kept as guard animals as their vociferous outpourings will ring out an alarm when something is amiss in their realm.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover the cursor over it.

That geese have always been popular is reflected by the existence of countless domestic breeds which people often keep as pets, if not to discourage burglars or conquerors. I once met two domestic geese who lived in someone’s house and wore diapers for reasons I need not elaborate. Goose love taken to the next level!

Canada Goose/Kanadagans (Branta canadensis)

Cackling Goose/Zwergkanadagans (Branta hutchinsii)

While my love for geese won’t make me go out and join the group of pet goose owners, I will keep going out to look for all those geese who enliven our rivers, lakes, and ponds with their sheer numbers and antics. And while Canada and Cackling Geese are our most numerous winter visitors by far, I enjoy detecting the occasional odd goose among them. I also relish listening to their near-incessant and varied vocalizations—their honking, chattering, murmuring, baying, cackling, yelping, grunting, trumpeting, hissing, growling, babbling. In short, the entire sweeping spectrum of goose expression, from dulcet to cacophonous, all the tones that conspire to make up lovely goose music.

65 thoughts on “Goose Music

  1. Huge flocks of geese are also a spectacular feature in my part of the world.
    I remember an occasion birding on the coast when wave after wave of Pink-feet flew out to roost on the sandbanks. “How on earth do people estimate their numbers?” I remarked, “Ah” replied a seasoned veteran “Count the legs and divide by two” 🤔🙄😁

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello dear Tanja,

    What stunning views! I can almost hear their zealous “honking” as I view your beautiful images. While we have some areas in my country that welcome some geese in great numbers, the sheer numbers that visit your area are in a completely different dimension.

    We have had a very “sparse” birding season this year, so seeing this is a real treat. Hope you are continuing to stay safe and well dear friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Takami,
      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Seeing so many birds at once is indeed something spectacular and it keeps making me get out in winter.
      I’m sorry to hear that your birding season was sparse and I hope you will be blessed with more beautiful moments in nature soon!
      All the best,

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Welcome back, Tanja, we’ve missed you! 🙂 Yes, I agree, there’s something very special about large flocks of geese, whether they be on the ground or on the wing (I love those V-shaped formations they adopt when on migration). The Cackling Goose is a new one on me; I suspect if I saw one (perhaps I already have?) I’d just assume it was a Canada Goose. They’re not easy to tell apart, are they? I’ve just read on Wikipedia that there are 5 subspecies of Cackling Goose, of varying sizes and plumage details…which must make identifying them a bit of a nightmare!

    My so -called “classical education” has clearly let me down as I’ve never come across the story of Rome’s Capitoline Geese, but I can well understand that they make good guard animals! I don’t think there’s any such thing as a quiet goose, but they’re great birds just the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s an excellent frame-filling photograph you opened with. And what a string of gerrymandered gerunds you’ve germinated in “honking, chattering, murmuring, baying, cackling, yelping, grunting, trumpeting, hissing, growling, babbling.’ It’s an oral Ganseatic League.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This post made me chuckle because I spend all winter complaining about the geese! They’re everywhere, they poop all over everything, and they can be so mean and aggressive. It tends to make me forget that they’re enormous and pretty impressive birds. Thanks for presenting a very different perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for being open-minded, Diana. I’m fairly certain that your dislike would be lessened if you spent a little time observing geese. Unless it’s the breeding season and they are protective of their nesting sites, they are really quite social and placid. And they are undoubtedly quite the lookers!

      Liked by 1 person

    • And this is only a small selection of the geese of the world, Christa. Even within North America there are a few other species you and I could see. I suspect that you have seen Cackling Geese before without registering them. They are smaller versions of Canadas with shorter necks and beaks and sound slightly different, too, but those differences are only noticeable when one pays attention (which is, of course, not necessary for one’s enjoyment).
      Seeing large flocks of Snow Geese is a beautiful sight indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Some of my most memorable outdoor moments have been experiencing thousands of wintering geese take off from roosting on a lake just at dawn. Nothing like it.

    Thank you for sharing some of nature’s wonderful waterfowl!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Was für wunderbare Fotos. Ich bin hin und weg. Canada Goose, die ist hier inzwischen auch gut vertreten. Wir wohnen hier ja auch in einem Gebiet, wo die Gänse aus dem hohen Norden zu uns kommen, um hier zu überwintern. Ich kenne die Gänsemusik also sehr gut. Und freue mich immer darüber. Allerdings sind sie in der Landwirtschaft verhasst und so mancher Jäger knallt sie ab – angeblich, um den Landwirten zu helfen. Ich habe schon viel mit Jägern gestritten, wenn ich sie erwischt habe, aber sie dürfen leider Gänse schießen, bis auf ganz wenige Arten, die unter Schutz stehen,.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Es freut mich, daß dir die Gänse gefallen, liebe Maren, und daß auch du eine Liebhaberin der Gänsemusik bist.
      Auch hier gibt es Zeiten, in denen Gänse und Enten geschossen werden dürfen, weil sich viele so erfolgreich vermehrt haben, daß ihre Scharen Probleme bereiten. Das macht mich auch traurig, doch ist wohl unumgänglich. Wir haben schon so lange in die Kreisläufe der Natur eingegriffen, daß das “natürliche Gleichgewicht” in vielen Gebieten gar nicht mehr existiert.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love geese also, but my sightings of them are very limited indeed.

    I first fell in love with Canada Geese after seeing them in the children/family film Seal Morning and while I (obviously) don’t see them in Australia, I do enjoy images like yours. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Vicki. I didn’t know about the film Seal Morning but when I read the summary online, it made me wish I did.
      While you might not have Canada Geese in Australia, you have many species of birds I would love to see. I might never, but at least I get to enjoy them vicariously when I see your photos. 😊


  9. What a wonderful celebration, Tanja. Canada geese have become so ubiquitous that it’s easy to look past them or only see them as varmints; this is a healthy reminder to put on my “wildlife” lenses when they appear them.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I saw my first flocks of Snow Geese in some agricultural fields just last weekend. There certainly weren’t as many as in your first photo, but there were enough that cars were stopping along the highway to have a look at the spectacle. Sometimes, I come across smaller mixed flocks of Snow, Canada, and White-Fronted geese feeding together, and that’s equally lovely.

    I once had a friend whose family moved from rural north Texas to inner-city Houston when he still was in grade school – in the 1950s. He insisted that his pets, a pair of domestic ducks named Daisy and Donald, had to come with him. So, they did. A pond was built for them in the back yard, and every day they would accompany him to his grade school about two blocks away. Then, he’d go to class and the ducks would fly home. In the afternoon, they’d go back to the school, and ‘walk’ him home. He said some of his classmates ridiculed him, and some envied him, but no one ever harmed the ducks. Everyone loves ducks!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Large flocks of ducks and geese are simply marvelous and each winter I look forward to their return, and to finding the rarer Snow and White-fronted Geese mixed in with their more common relatives. I hope you will keep enjoying your winter visitors.

      I don’t know how envious I would have been of your friends pets, Daisy and Donald, as a (stupid) grade school kid, but I’m definitely envious now. What a special, touching friendship that must have been for him.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Learned something new today – was not aware of the historical “alert” benefits of the Geese back in the day. Although, it might have just been the Gauls didn’t want to march through all the Goose poop ha. The Snow Geese will be gathering soon around here and we always enjoy the massive gatherings down in Texas (especially at Anahuac).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by, Brian. Goose poop wasn’t on my mind when I wrote this post, but it should have been. The soles of my boots speak volumes…😊
      To my great regret, I have yet to bird in Texas. Along with Florida, it is ON TOP of my wish list!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I used to love watching the flocks of geese arrive from the North when we lived in Scotland. They were often accompanied by that faint hint of pink in the sky that meant snow was coming. They are very different geese here but just as welcome. Our summer was just so hot but I still haven’t enjoyed our very cold days, close to freezing. I guess some people are never happy…😁

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I must confess I am a bit jealous, Tanja! ;- ) What an amazing sight to see (and hear)! Around here, if I see a couple dozen at one time, it’s a really big deal. And thanks for the pics of the different kinds of geese I have never seen before!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Tanja… what lovely images of these marvelous birds. You definitely brought back fond memories of various occasions when we happened upon great goose gatherings. The cacophony and exuberant honking is a marvelous experience for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

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