A fascinating photograph has been gaining attention online, capturing the curiosity of viewers. In this photo, taken by a Dutch photographer, a goose is seen flying with its body positioned upside down while maintaining a right-side-up orientation for its head.
Vincent Cornelissen, an amateur photographer, was engaged in wildlife photography in the vicinity of Arnhem, the Netherlands, back in March. It was during this time that he observed the peculiar flight of a goose amidst the turbulent weather conditions.
Cornelissen recalls his experience, sharing, “The weather was unfavorable, so I wore my waterproof clothing and positioned myself against a tree, overlooking a lake.” He continues, “I noticed that one of the three geese was having difficulty maintaining a straight flight path. It appeared to be struggling, presumably due to the strong winds. Concerned about its condition, I decided to capture some photographs of the goose.”
“I instantly recognized that I had captured something extraordinary, but at the same time, I had concerns that others might doubt its authenticity,” Cornelissen admits. “The image seemed almost surreal, as if it had been manipulated in Photoshop.”
It is important to note that the goose was not flying upside down for an extended period of time, as the aerodynamics of bird wings would not permit such sustained flight. Rather, what Cornelissen captured was a bird maneuver known as whiffling, which has been observed in various bird species. Whiffling involves temporary and intermittent flips or rolls in flight, adding to the bird’s agility and maneuverability.
Whiffling is when a bird quickly flies down to the ground in a zig-zag pattern, occasionally briefly flipping its body upside down. This helps the bird go faster by using its wing aerodynamics.
Mechanical engineer Alpay Lök, commenting on Cornelissen’s Instagram post, shared his understanding of why the goose performed its downward maneuver against the strong wind. Lök explained that due to the aerofoil shape of the wings, the goose was able to generate lift while flying straight. However, when the bird turned down, it created a downward force similar to the spoilers on Formula 1 cars. Lök further expressed that this photograph could serve as a valuable educational resource for engineering students.
The acrobatic maneuver known as whiffling bears resemblance to the graceful descent of a falling leaf. Birds may employ this maneuver to facilitate quicker landings or to evade airborne predators. However, there is a possibility that birds also engage in whiffling to showcase their agility and prowess, exhibiting a display of skill while in flight.
According to Dutch wildlife photographer and conservationist Lars Soerink, once young geese become proficient in flying, they begin to explore the possibilities and push their limits. Soerink suggests that birds may engage in whiffling as a way to impress and show off to their fellow geese, essentially saying, “Look at me!” This behavior could be a form of avian bragging, where they demonstrate their aerial skills and abilities to their peers.