The Weird Reason Geese Fly Upside Down

Nature is full of mysteries, and many people can't help but feel a sense of awe when faced with the wonder of the natural world. Animals out in the wild seem to have an innate understanding of their place in nature, allowing their instincts to guide them towards food, shelter, and mates. Like bears that know when to begin hibernating for the winter and birds that know exactly where to fly when migrating south to warmer climates, sometimes wild animals just seem to understand what they need to do to survive.

As it turns out, not every wild animal is always following an intuitive survival instinct when they do some of the things they do. Geese, for example, are known to perform a phenomenon called whiffling, which is the impressive feat of flying upside down. In mid-air, the birds flip their bodies around while twisting their necks 180 degrees back upright, turning themselves into flying pretzels. And while seeing a goose turn upside down mid-flight is certainly breathtaking, scientists aren't exactly sure why geese do it. According to Science Focus, whiffling may be a technique that is used to allow geese to lose speed and land more quickly than if they descended right-side up. Other science experts believe that whiffling may be used among geese to help them avoid predators or spot food more easily, per WGME 13.

Whiffling geese might just be showing off

While there may be some practical purposes for flying upside down, there might be another reason why geese perform these fancy aerial tricks: Because birds, like people, occasionally get the urge to show off. 

According to Lars Soerink, Dutch wildlife photographer and conservation science communicator for Bird Protection Netherlands, the geese may be whiffling not out of survivalist instinct but simply because it is a fun trick to perform. "Once young geese have mastered flying, they start to see what is possible and how far they can go," Soerink explained to WGME 13. He also suggested that it could be rooting in bragging rights among their peers. "Like, look at me!" he added. So while wildlife is certainly full of mystery and wonder, people and animals might not be quite so different after all. And really, who are we to judge? After all, flying upside down is pretty impressive.