A white Canadian goose in a flocka

Birds of a Feather Flock Together: Not Always

What is THAT! Something’s not right, something’s out of the ordinary. What is that proverb, “Birds of a feather flock together”? Is it always true, I wonder?

I was driving home from my daily swim, eyes on the road and surroundings, thoughts and images floating through my mind, not registering or making an impression when suddenly, something did not seem right. I had just passed a pond with its resident population of Canadian geese. I have passed this pond hundreds of times and have been observing these geese over the years. Today I observed something extraordinary.

A white Canadian goose in a flocka

White among black

When I came to the United States decades ago, I was fascinated by the annual migration of Canadian geese. They would arrive on the Eastern shores (Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey) in the fall and fly north in the spring. They would settle in the marshes, fields or lawns and forage throughout the winter.  I would see the huge flocks take flight filling the air with the whir of their powerful wings and their loud honking. They would circle above encouraging others to join until they numbered in the thousands. Critical mass reached, they would set off on their long flight, in the characteristic V-formation with a wise leader at the head.

Canadian geese foraging on our lawns

Canadian geese foraging on our lawns

Many scholarly articles, manuscripts and books have been written on the aerodynamics of migratory birds and leadership qualities of the leader who is responsible for unerringly guiding the flock thousands of miles to its destination. En route, it has to find food and resting places all the while avoiding predators. Today, I do not see such huge numbers migrating, they have become permanent residents. Maybe the temperatures are warmer, or they have found the locale very hospitable. Maybe there is nobody to deport them. Whatever the reason, the geese now stay year round and bring forth baby goslings in the spring, a delight to watch.

Canadian goose with chicks

Baby Canadian geese

But, back to the story. As I drove past the pond with its resident flock of geese, something stood out. Canadian geese are rather drab. They are covered with gray feathers with white streaks. They have a white underside, a dark neck and a white splash under their beak. But, in the midst of that drab flock stood one solitary white bird. Naturally, it looked very different but seemed quite at home. The flock had accepted it as its own. From the distance it was hard to say if it was an albino goose or a swan. Probably an albino. Usually, such animals are easy prey for predators in the wild but in suburban USA there are hardly any predators left (except man, of course). The only ones of any consequence are foxes and hawks which can prey on the small birds. Somehow this one made it to adulthood.

The white bird

The white bird

I braked, turned around and parked beside a large bush out of sight and down-wind from the birds. They did not mind. The white goose seemed content and at peace among friends. Pushing through mud and knee high grass, I got as close as I could with my camera itching from a million mosquito bites in the process. Who said wild life photography was easy?

A white Canadian Goose in a regular flock

The Contrarian Goose

They say “birds of a feather flock together”. Look at the picture. Evidently not. The white bird did show one contrary tendency though, looking in the direction opposite to the others. Something has to be different, right?

People will draw different conclusions from the picture. Does the color of the feather (or skin) matter as long as we can live peacefully together?  It does not. It is amazing what humans can learn from the animal kingdom, even today.

5 thoughts on “Birds of a Feather Flock Together: Not Always

  1. Mandira Chatterjee

    Your duck and goose story is an interesting read. I say, as you’ve been to Alaska, why don’t you post some photographs of your trip?


  2. Mandira Chatterjee

    Your duck and goose story is an interesting read. I say, as you’ve been to Alaska, why don’t you post some photographs of your trip?



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