Tuesday, July 7, 2009

No Mercy

Caution! The following post is a bit of a downer, no graphic images, but some of the tough realities of nature are explored. If you prefer a less challenging, more warm and fuzzy experience please stop reading - click here for flowers and bunnies, or wait for the typical bird pics from the walk post that will follow.

This guy or gal almost wrecked my mood today. The sun had only been up ten to fifteen minutes, and I was walking back from the east side of the large lake, (typically mudflat), when I saw a lone Canada Goose swimming towards me. It was riding low in the water, visibly struggling to reach the bank. I couldn't tell if it had a wing or foot problem, or if it was something else. In any case it was clear that if it didn't get resolved shortly the goose would not be long for this world. Granted, that part of the situation is a bummer, but it is a part of the way the natural world works. I have watched enough predators devouring perfectly healthy prey that the sight of a doomed injured animal at the very least doesn't make bloggable material.

What did was the response of three other geese to its desperate calls as it neared the bank. It had been using its wings to keep itself above water and looked and sounded exhausted. Then, one of the three geese in the area started honking loudly. It placed itself between the distressed goose and the shore and began to defend the territory.

It drove that individual away from the bank, and back out into deeper water. I walked away with plenty of thoughts to chew on - I didn't need to stand around and watch what I can imagine was the eventual outcome.
The question is, do geese drive away all injured or otherwise distressed members of their species? Having volunteered in a raptor rehabilitation clinic, and read examples on the web, I know that there are many bird individuals that cope with injuries, malformities, and other maladies and get on quite well. Since Canada Geese are frequently seen in large groups I have to imagine that the defensive response was specific to that bird, and not something that would have been presented to a healthy individual, but I could be wrong there.
That lead me to a next question, are there certain disease conditions amongst birds that can be recognized, and cause banishment - like leprosy?
Fortunately there were many other sights to see this morning, and the thoughts of rejection and death were chased away by bright sunlight and birdsong. Even so, I am curious if anyone else has encountered this or similar behavior. Any experts out there that can offer any insight are welcome to comment or email me.

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