Written Narratives**

Canada Geese New Jersey






1. Lessons from Geese


2. Why We Should Tolerate Geese


3. The Goose Whisperer


4. Why Geese Fly Farther Than Eagles


Lessons from Geese


Note: "Lessons from Geese" was transcribed from a speech given by Angeles Arrien at the 1991 Organizational Development Network and was based on the work of Milton Olson. .

bullet  FACT 1:

As each goose flaps its wings it creates an "uplift" for the birds that follow. By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.


People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

bullet  FACT 2:

When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.


If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

bullet  FACT 3:

When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into formation and another goose flies to the point position.


It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other's skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

bullet  FACT 4:

The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.


We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one's heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

bullet  FACT 5:

When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.


If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.




Why We Should Tolerate Geese

(Author Unknown)


     “Amidst the clamor over the proliferation of geese on our public and private properties, we should not forget that geese, or deer, or raccoons, skunks, or any indigenous species are not the problem. They seem, because of their large numbers waddling to and fro across our streets causing traffic problems, because they make a mess of our streets and sidewalks, to be a problem. But, again the problem is not geese.


     The problem is urban sprawl. The problem is our collective inability to come to terms with our insatiable desire to live wherever we want and have whatever we want to have. We have confused Freedom, the most basic of our rights under the Constitution, which truly are fundamentally the most important principle that should rule our behavior towards each other, for the freedom to violate the very laws of nature that keep us alive. These laws of nature demand that the environment that created and allowed for the proliferation of a species be sustained in order for that species to survive. We ignore these laws at our own peril. If we go on destroying our environment through the encroachments of our species into all the niches of nature, polluting the air breathed and the water we need to survive, there is no other scenario for our future but a collapse of it.


     At one level these geese seem to be a nuisance. Their struggle to survive on our busy streets, on our manicured lawns, on our human-shaped world intrudes on our convenience. But his sense of annoyance is an illusion we’ve created by our own our [sic] sense of ownership. We believe that if we have purchased something with our hard-earned money, we should be able to have it the way we want it. In reality, these geese, and the other animals and plants vying for a foothold in our world, are perhaps the last warning we will get that we are not ready to take over the mechanisms that control our environment.

     We should not preserve and accommodate these troublesome geese just because some of us are fond of them, nor because scientists tell us that because of their higher metabolism, they are an early warning system for the overuse of poisons, some diseases, and other environmental breakdowns. We should learn to tolerate the presents [sic] of geese and the other animals we have displaced by our urban sprawl because they have been for a long time integral for maintaining the environment we have. The health of any one ecosphere (which means our ability to survive in it) comes as a result of an intricately fine-tuned relationship between animals and plants and bacteria that have evolved for millions of years.


     This fundamental truth does not change because we want to live and drive everywhere we want. That the environment has not collapsed immediately has much to do with the resilience of nature and nothing to do with our ability to take over the mechanisms that keep us alive. The further we stretch the ability of our environment to recover from our abuses, the quicker and more profound will be the failure of it.




The Goose Whisperer


Delft, Netherlands: A gaggle of geese runs riot in the riot in the Hof van Delft Park. They honk, they hiss, they harass, and – it’s hard not to notice – they scatter droppings everywhere.


Soon, a lanky stranger comes to impose order on this chaos. He strides straight toward the center of the flock, a place few would dare to tread, especially wearing clean shoes.


They call him “The Goose Whisperer,” and he has a job to do.


Martin Hof has become a minor celebrity here, in part for his ability to communicate with fowl, which some say borders on the magical.


And while there’s something special, and a little comical, about watching him at work whistling, talking, and yes, whispering to the birds, there’s more to this than meets the eye.


At age 23, Hof has developed an unusual approach to managing urban geese populations that is gaining adherents in the animal-friendly Netherlands – the first country in the world with an animal rights party in parliament.


“It’s all about respect for the geese,” he says earnestly.


The main problem at the Hof van Delft, and most parks, is that the birds have been allowed to overbreed and are clashing with humans whose territory they share.


But rather than culling, he finds new homes for the geese, dividing them along family lines to reduce the trauma of the move. On the other side of the equation, he works with the humans who consider the geese as either pets or pests.


That means discouraging feeding the animals and educating city workers on preventing the birds from overbreeding in the first place.


“They call them ‘silly geese’, but they’re so smart, they learn everything, “ says the pony-tailed goose whisperer. “We teach them, we silly people, to break through their natural barrier whenever we come up to them with bread.”


After one goose lunges at a passing jogger, attempting to bite his legs, Hof approaches the troublemaker for a little chat. To show he’s a friend, he uses his arm to mimic a goose head bobbing up and down. Their conversation is too quiet to her, but the goose appears calmed, and wattles off to rejoin his group.


Hof says the goose wasn’t being aggressive, she was just startled that a stranger ran right into her personal space without warning. That hissing noise geese sometimes make? “Pure stress,” Hof says.


Incidents become more common when geese are fed by parkgoers, Hof says. Eventually, children get nipped, neighbors complain and birds are culled.


Hof say that’s wrong, and unnecessary.


To begin with, he keeps a database of a hundred or more farms or parks that actually want a few geese. City workers usually don’t have the time for such niceties.


They slaughter indiscriminately, which is also cruel to the birds that remain, Hof says.  Geese are generally monogamous, and a pair may live together forty years.


Partners that are suddenly split may never recover from the shock. “Some literally die of loneliness,” Hof says.


For those skeptical about the emotional lives of gees, there’s a more practical reason; survivors may call endlessly for missing members, increasing noise problems.


After an experience saving a goose caught in a fishing net when he was seven years old, Hof became fascinated with the birds. Sixteen years later, he can usually identify families at a glance.


But he carries out various tests to be sure. He walks into the middle of a group, whistling, then observes their reaction.


“Just when I drove them apart, you saw that families started calling each other … they say “hup hup hup hup; Here I am! Where are you?”


Individuals take a little longer to get to know. But at his shelter in the town of Coevorden where they live out their days, Hof fluidly names dozens by sight: Brenda, Carmen, Alda, Flago, Sunny, Pablo, Ceasar…..


Hof says half his job is managing people.


Joke Fransen, walking her dog, complained vociferously about goose droppings.


“It’s getting worse every year,” she said. “Put them in a pen or make pate out of them, I say”


But after a few minutes speaking with Hof, she’s beaming and laughing too. She likes the geese, just not so many, and she wholeheartedly prefers relocation to culling.


To make Hof’s strategy work long term, city workers also have to learn about bird birth control.


It’s not complicated: every two weeks during the late spring, a worker needs to check near the edges of waterways for eggs. Smearing them with corn oil is an effective and nonpolluting way to prevent unwanted goslings.


Gerad Zwart of the Amsterdam’s public health agency, which has hired Hof’s company for several projects, says the city has been so influenced by his thinking it plans to rename its “Vermin Control Service” to the “Nature Management Service.”


He said the cost of using Hof’s service is about the same as the old eradication program. Hof said a typical job of relocating 30 geese would be about $2,000 - $3,000.


Capturing geese for transport is “the most stressful part,” Hof says.

“Yes, yes, yes, girl, I’m not going to hurt you,” he tells one. “Wow, you’re a very tough guy, I can see that,” he tells another that tries to nip at him.


He kisses each on the back of the neck before loading them onto his “Royal Geese Carriage” that will whisk them away to a better life.





“Why Geese Fly Farther Than Eagles”

By Bob Stromberg


I’d never seen a bird so large, so near.                                                                                                                                                                                                           

But, clearly ill, she landed here,                                                                                                                                                                      

Indeed, nearly dead.

I fed her some and then said,

“You may stay here, if you choose.”

And that’s how she became “my” goose.


At least I said she was mine.

I suppose she was for a short time,

until she was stronger, when I set her free.

But for a while she stayed with me.


No eagle claw, hooked beak or furrowed brow.

Of these things she had no need,

for she was content

to fill herself on things among the weed,

and down around the small fish.

That’s a dainty dish –

if you’re a goose.


That is not to say, however,

and it would be wrong to think of her as weak,

not strong like the eagle.

For though the eagle is stronger in flight,

more fit for the kill,

my goose can fly farther and longer

than any eagle will.


Oh, I’ve heard much lofty talk

about the eagle, falcon and hawk.

And it’s not my desire,

nor would I conspire, to pull those big birds down.

Who would dare?

For when I watch them flying so high up there,

sometimes but a solitary dot,

I can but gaze in wonder and utter,

“My, look at that!”


But, as I’ve implied,

whether in the trees or in the sky,

eagles, falcons and hawks are almost always alone,

or at most in two.

And that’s what separates those birds

from my goose.


I suppose those in Iowa or Nebraska

would know it best,

for the sky is bigger

as you head toward the west.

But even as a lad nestled in the Alleghenies,

I looked forward, each fall, to seeing as many

as a thousand geese arrowing into view

over autumn ember elm and maple

and white birch, too.


One day, lying alone in the lawn on my back,

hearing only the sound of a distant train

on some far-off track,

I saw before my eyes,

ten thousand feet high or more,

a sight which to this day, I must say,

I’ve seen nothing like before.


The head goose,

the leader of the V,

suddenly veered out,

leaving a vacancy,

which was promptly filled by a bird behind.

The former leader then flew alongside

(the formation continued to grow wide),

and he found himself a spot at the back of the line.

They never missed a beat!



I was on my feet,

gaping mouth,

gazing south,

wondering what on earth I’d seen.

I told my friends.

They said, “So?”

I said, “So!”

What do you mean, “So?”

Have you ever seen anything like that before?

Mark? Jay? Paul?

They said, “No, but don’t be a bore;

Let’s go to the park and play ball.”

So we did.

And that was that.


Well, now I’m an adult,

and I’m very busy.

I suppose that’s a part of being grown.

But the point is, I hardly ever have time alone.

Not least,

lying in the lawn looking for geese.

And if I do see some, it’s more or less luck.

Or I’ll see a goose, but it’s really duck.

I might glimpse one up high while I’m stuck in traffic.

And that’s why I’m thankful for the National Geographic.

For it tells me what I now tell you.

And if you don’t believe what I say is true,

Then you can go look it up.


What I have witnessed that day as a child

has been going on with geese in the wild

since the very first autumn.

You see, their bodies are streamlined,

the neck like a spear,

slicing the wind,

breaking the air.

And from the ground it’s impossible to see,

but their wings aren’t flapping randomly.


When the head goose grabs the wind,

air is displaced,

which then rushes up to reclaim its space,

only to see the smiling face

of the bird flying behind,

whose wings just happen to be in the downward position –

a very dangerous condition,

which doesn’t last for long,

Because the upward rush

gives them a push,

and they’re right back up where they belong.


This goose then grabs the air again,

causing another upward wind,

which lifts the bird behind.

And so and so it goes on down the line.


So the head goose breaks the wind,

and all the rest are carried by him,

with very little effort, I’ve heard,

on the part of any one bird.

When the head goose has had enough,

he or she simply drops back

and depends on another bird for strength

when strength is what is lacked.


So that’s how I found out

how the goose can fly from up north

to way down south and back again.

But she cannot do it alone, you see.

It’s something that must be done in community.


These days it’s a popular notion,

and people swell with emotion and pride

when they think of themselves on the eagle-side.

Solitary, Self-sufficient, Strong.


But we are what we are.

That’s something we cannot choose.

Though many would wish to be seen as an eagle,

I think God made most like the goose.




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