It’s not a photo manipulation or a trick of the eye. A Bean goose really is flying upside down in the photo taken by Vincent Cornelissen that has gone viral around the world.
In the Dutch photographer’s picture, the goose’s body is turned completely upside down but its neck is twisted 180 degrees so its head is upright. Speculation as to why the acrobatic Bean goose is doing this began immediately after Cornelissen posted the image to his social media accounts.
Cornelissen initially thought the goose had simply been buffeted by strong winds.
He wrote on Instagram (translated), “Despite the bad weather (or in my case: because of the bad weather) I still went out this morning. With as a special treat – a sea eagle and a spoonbill flying over – and a goose that didn’t know how to fly because of the wind.”
On the day he took the photo near Arnhem in The Netherlands, Cornelissen said he saw three geese flying. One stood out because it was flying so oddly. It was only when he got home and examined his photos that he noticed the unusual shot.
But he later wrote that he had learned that a goose can slow down quickly flying this way and that it’s a natural behavior for the birds.
But just what kind of behavior is it?
It’s called whiffling; that’s the term used in ornithology. A bird uses the movement to descend rapidly. A whiffling bird appears to be zig-zagging downwards because of the aerodynamics created by inverting its wings.
There is some debate among naturalists that whiffling is more than an aerodynamic move. Some ornithologists think whiffling may also be used to avoid predators (including human ones). One conservationist says whiffling may even be a way for the birds to show off.
“Once young geese have mastered flying, they start to see what is possible and how far they can go,” Bird Protection Netherlands conservationist Lars Soerink told Zenger News in an interview. “They (could) do it to brag to their peers. Like, look at me!”
Cornelissen says his image has generated lots of interest around the globe. The photographer told Zenger News that he knew his photo was special but felt it might receive criticism for looking fake. It did receive some such negative feedback but he also received thousands of positive comments from curious bird lovers. A professor in Instanbul even uses his photo to teach students about aerodynamics, something a mechanical engineer suggested on Cornelisson’s Instagram page.
“As a mechanical engineer who learned Bernoulli’s theorem and aerodynamics, I could easily understand why this goose turned down against strong wind for landing,” Alpay Lök wrote to Cornelissen. “Because the wings have the [aerofoil] shape, it was creating lifting force. But when it turned down, [it] created down force, same way spoilers of F1 cars. This picture will be very useful for the engineering students.”
Ultimately, the image has opened people’s eyes to a unique behavior not seen by many in real time.
For Cornelissen, who loves taking photographs of birds, it’s been a positive experience.
He said, “I always say that to find a bird and photograph it in a special way is incredibly satisfying and relaxing.”
Photos republished on Reshareworthy.com with permission from Vincent Cornelissen.