Lessons From Those Flying Geese

by | Jul 28, 2023 | Formation, Reflections

Just about everyone has seen a flock of geese flying in their trademark V-formation.

They are a thing of beauty to behold…. if you can get beyond their negative effects at lower altitudes.

For some, there is the annoyance of their droppings on lawns or golf courses. Others, especially pilots, see them as life-threatening hazards when they get sucked into airplane turbines.

Yet, fighter pilots have learned from them!

Is there something we can learn from them about church community?

Why geese fly in formation

Scientists have determined that the V-shaped formation that geese use when migrating serves two important purposes:

First, it conserves their energy. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of them, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. The birds take turns being in the front, falling back when they get tired. In this way, the geese can fly for a long time before they must stop for rest.

The second benefit of the V formation is that it is easy to keep track of every bird in the group. Flying in formation may assist with communication and coordination within the group.

Fighter pilots often use this formation for the same reasons.

Facts and possible lessons

Fact 1 As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird following. Flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if the bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they’re going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Fact 2:   Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stay in formation with those who are headed where we want to go, and we will be willing to accept their help as well as give ours to others.

Fact 3: When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into formation, and another goose flies at the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing the leadership. If we have as much sense as a goose, we will remember that we are indeed interdependent on each other.

Fact 4: The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those in front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure our honking from behind is encouraging.

Fact 5: When a goose gets sick or wounded or is shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it is able to fly again or dies. Then they launch out on their own with another formation, or they catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose, we too, will stand by each other in difficult times, as well as when we are strong.

Fact 6: The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those in front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure our honking from behind is encouraging.

video version of some lessons. Of course, every analogy has weaknesses.

Connection with Pope Francis

  • Do you see any connection with how the early Christians listened to the Spirit?
  • Is this another way of looking at Pope Francis’ calling for each to listen to the Spirit and each other?

Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk