SULLIVAN COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — When it comes to certain species of geese, Indiana is a balmy winter destination as they escape the frigid temperatures of their breeding grounds.
According to Indiana Department of Natural Resources State Ornithologist Allisyn Gillet, the birds tend to gather on both large bodies of water and in large farm fields for a few reasons.
“The reason why you end up getting a whole bunch of birds in fields, usually during the day, is because they are here specifically to feed on all the waste grain in the fields,” Gillet said.
Both corn and soybeans can act as energy-rich nutrients for birds.
“It’s a very high-calorie type of food that allows for them to really bulk up for these really cold wintery nights. And that’s why they are all together,” Gillet said.
“The type of birds oftentimes that are seen in these really large flocks are Snow Geese and White-fronted Geese,” Gillet said. “Canada Geese also come here in large flocks as well, but I’d say the Snow Geese are most noticeable because we get tens of thousands of them. And it’s really beautiful, it’s quite the phenomenon to see.”
Gillet says watching a large gaggle of snow geese taking off from a body of water is one of her favorite things to watch during the winter in Indiana.
“It’s just really cool to see so many geese together all at once, and them cooperating without running into each other. They are able to be in such large groups without really being a danger to themselves.”
Wide open farming fields are also great places to congregate because it gives the birds plenty of space to spot potential predators or danger to the flock.
“Working as a group is very beneficial. And when they are in these large open fields, it also gives them this wonderful vantage point to be able to see all around them. Rather than, such as in a forest, for example, where you can’t see what’s around you and see who might be spying on you while you are vulnerable and eating with your head down.”
Gillet said that for these species of birds, Indiana is the destination when it comes to their yearly migration.
“You’d think they’d go down to Florida, or sunny Alabama or something like that, but really what they are trying to do is just get to the closest place that has conditions that are mild enough so that they can survive the cold winter, but still be close enough to the grounds where they breed.”
Gillet says the advantage of doing that is that migration is a risky thing. Birds can run into man-made dangers like power lines, predators, and other things that could put them in danger during migration.