SULLIVAN COUNTY, Indiana (WTWO/WAWV) — When it comes to certain geese species, Indiana is a mild winter destination as they escape the frigid temperatures of their breeding grounds.
According to Allisyn Gillet, state ornithologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the birds congregate on both large bodies of water and large farm fields for a number of reasons.
“The reason you end up having a whole bunch of birds in the fields, usually during the day, is because they’re here specifically to feed on all the trash crops in the fields,” Gillet said.
Both corn and soybeans can serve as high-energy nutrients for birds.
“It’s a very high calorie type of food that allows them to really load up for those really cold winter nights. And that’s why they’re all together,” Gillet said.
“The kind of birds that are often seen in these really big flocks are snow geese and white-fronted geese,” Gillet said. “Canada geese also come here in big flocks, but I would say the snow geese are the most noticeable because we get tens of thousands of them. And it’s really beautiful, quite a phenomenon to see.”
Gillet says that one of her favorite things to do during the Indiana winter is watching a large flock of snow geese take off from a body of water.
“It’s just cool to see so many geese together at once and they cooperate without meeting each other. They are able to be in such large groups without really being a danger to themselves.”
Wide open fields are also great places to congregate, giving the birds plenty of room to spot potential predators or threats to the flock.
“Working in a group is very enriching. And when they’re in those big open fields, they also have that wonderful vantage point to see everything around them. Instead of, say, in a forest where you can’t see what’s around you and who might be spying on you while you’re vulnerable and eating with your head down.
Gillet said that for these bird species, Indiana is the destination of their annual migration.
“You’d think they were going to Florida or sunny Alabama or something, but in reality they’re trying to get to the closest place where the conditions are mild enough for them to survive the cold winters, but still.” be close enough to the breeding sites.”
According to Gillet, the advantage is that migration is a risky business. Birds may encounter man-made hazards like power lines, predators, and other things that might endanger them during migration.