A stop at a roadside park in Hennessey, Oklahoma reveals a lot about both bird and human behavior.
A beautiful park located just off of highway 281 in Hennessey, Oklahoma often serves as a rest stop for my wife and I on the way back to Pratt from our church’s temple in Oklahoma City. A half or so hour break at Bull Foot Park provides an opportunity to stretch our legs on the half or so mile sidewalk path that encircles a pond.
Among the park’s attractions are a life-sized metal, silhouette sculpture of a cattle drive, a fountain shooting streams of water into the air from the pond, a children’s playground area, and clean restrooms with warm water, even in the winter. The pond also has a more or less resident population of Canada geese and other waterfowl, primarily ducks.
Last weekend, we brought a loaf of bread, too long in the freezer, with us for our visit to the park. Little did we anticipate how our attempt to share this bounty would create discord.
A family of 10 or so resident geese eyed us warily as we veered off the trail and approached them. Perhaps feeding geese was not a popular pastime in Hennessey. We stopped at a safe distance, broke the bread into small pieces, and tossed it to the birds from a couple of different locations. After this, we walked a safe distance away to observe. We watched one Canada goose, began running full throttle toward the others, extending its neck forward and cackling as it as it chased several of the others away. This bird seemed to be The Boss, if it could be said that a gaggle of geese have one. Several smaller geese remained on the outer fringes of the group, mindful of The Boss and timidly eating the bread. The larger geese headed straight for the bread but often had to pay the price for this. In several instances, The Boss charged full speed ahead and nipped the unsuspecting victim on its tail feathers, causing it to leap into the air.
I realize that this was probably normal behavior for a male goose (possibly) in the middle of spring nesting season. That’s one hypothesis, anyway. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but think of others, human even, who behave just like this goose, bullying others who are only trying to get by in life and may be and are unexpectedly sideswiped in the process. We don’t have to look too far, perhaps just outside our back window, to see how the natural world often imitates human behavior, both good and bad. I still remember the mother Robin in our backyard last summer. One of her charge had fallen to the ground from a nearby tree before developing flying skills. After turning on the water to our garden, I watched off and on through the back window that summer evening as mother Robin dropped down from her clothesline pole perch and fed her young repeatedly throughout the evening. The next morning both were no longer visible within our chain-link fenced yard.