Channel your inner angry goose

2 minute read

No more Mr Silly Goose over here.

Forget the early bird getting the worm – in the case of greylag geese, the angriest bird gets the worm.

New research from Flinders University published in Royal Society Open Science found that the more aggressive the goose, the higher they tended to rank among the flock.

The study participants (all of whom were geese) were residents of the Konrad Lorenz Research Center in Austria, where their food-trough interactions were monitored for agonistic behaviours.

These included biting, chasing, hissing, pecking and lunging at the neck of other geese.

Most of the agonistic encounters happened when 25 or more geese were trying to eat at the same location.

Who can really blame them?

The geese were careful to only initiate fights with geese that occupied a similar rank within the flock, rather than the alpha-geese at the top of the pecking order.

Turns out, a goose flock works similarly to one of those video games where you earn points by going around and picking fights with random strangers.

The more closely ranked the two geese were, the more uncertain the outcome of the goose battle and therefore the bigger chance of increasing rank following the fight.

“This suggests that geese are unlikely to initiate costly agonistic interactions with flock mates that significantly outrank them, presumably thereby keeping the number of interactions stable even when group size increases,” the researchers wrote.

“Therefore, a dominance hierarchy, predicted by aggressiveness, may mediate the costs of living within large groups during resource acquisition, keeping costs low (fewer agonistic interactions) but benefits high (increased protection from predators).”

The authors theorised that aggressive male and female geese also made more desirable mates.

This was partially based on the fact that the less aggressive male geese tended to pair up with each other rather than with female geese, suggesting that female geese valued a more aggressive partner.

For those interested in experiencing life as a goose, this Back Page correspondent has heard good things about Untitled Goose Game.

Honk honk!

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