By Wendy Langhans
Our bedtime ritual in Santa Clarita – opening the upstairs bedroom windows and allowing the cool, fresh night air to fill the rooms. Of course, sometimes the rooms are also filled with night noises, like honking geese at 2:00 AM.
Honking geese? At 2:00 AM? Yup. It’s that time of year. In the weeks leading up to migration, the Canada geese get restless. The Germans have a word for it, “Zugunruhe” (pronounced zook’-oon-roo-ha). Wildlife biologists refer to it as “migratory restlessness”. It “describes a behavior, usually at night, usually in birds, of increased activity, orienting towards the flight destination, practice flights, etc. Since most birds are diurnal (day-active), an increase (or even appearance) of activity during the night is a pretty good behavioral indicator that the animals are experiencing the urge to migrate.” And we know that Canada geese migrate at night.
The Canada Geese are getting restless.
So what causes this restlessness in the late summer and fall? Cooler temperatures? Certainly NOT around here, but maybe further north in Canada. Drop in barometric pressure? Perhaps. After a cold front passes through, the winds flows out of the northwest, providing a tail-wind for migrating birds. But, while these conditions may factor into the timing of migration, they are not the primary stimulus.
The most likely stimulus has to do with the amount daylight and it’s affect on hormone production and interaction. We know from experiments that removing the pineal gland reduces avian migratory restlessness. We also know that darkness stimulates the pineal gland to produce melatonin and daylight inhibits the production. But the issues are complex and as one site puts it, “the stimulus for autumnal premigratory preparation is not well understood.”
So I’d like to propose a theory of my own – I think it has to do with hot flashes. By flying through the air, I hypothesize that the geese create their own personal fan. Perhaps I ought conduct an experiment: get a fan and a long extension cord and see if that keeps them quiet at 2 AM. Can’t hurt, right?
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, August 29th, 11-Noon. Family Nature walk at
Placerita Canyon. There’s also an animal presentation from 1-2 PM.
Saturday, August 29th, 8:30-11:30 AM. SCV Green will host a “Witness to Wildlife” interactive community hike. For more information go here.
Friday, September 4, 7:30-9:30 PM. Full Moon Hike.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The Hike Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.