Those Birds That Jump Off Cliffs


Welcome to another article born out of desperation and utter lack of creativity. Just glancing at the title, I will guess that around 50% of you were just clickbaited, and have no idea what I am talking about, 25% of you watched a single episode of a nature documentary and think you understand everything, and another 25% of you are moderately well informed on this subject. None of these percentages are remotely accurate, but I’ll bet my using them makes me seem more reputable. Let’s begin.

Barnacle geese. If the name sparks interest, you’re probably not alone. This name describes a species of bird that has adapted strangely to dangers that can be found on the ground level, by nesting in high-altitude places. In other words, these birds have decided that the best solution to not dying by a fox is to put your children on cliffs hundreds of feet up from the ground. But it’s fine apparently, as, to quote David Cabot, an adjunct professor at Ireland’s University of Cork, “They are light and fluffy, often appearing to bounce off rocks as they fall…Only a few die from being caught in rock cracks, gullies, or smacking into a sharp rock.” And if you want more details about this, just search it up. Watching the small birds bounce on the ground is quite entertaining, believe me. 

When the baby birds reach around a day old, their parents abandon them, probably to then watch from afar. Because the birds are left with no food, they walk out onto the cliffs and jump. It is not the ground that kills them usually, although that kills a couple, to be sure. No, what is the true threat are the arctic foxes that stalk the ground below. Remember, these foxes are dangerous enough that the birds decided that letting their children live on a cliff was better than facing them. What ensues after the jump is what I describe as a very dangerous game of tag. Imagine being the fox. You sit around every day, stalking possible meals painstakingly in order to live, when one day, fluffy, round balls of slow-moving meat fall from the sky right near you. Honestly, what could be more perfect? So, these foxes, along with nearby gulls, chase after these baby birds, trying to catch as many as possible to stash for future meals.

Because of the sheer amount of danger that is posed by the cliff, the foxes, and the gulls, only around half of the baby gulls will ever reach adulthood. 

After this painstaking ordeal, the geese will make an annual trip to a wintering ground in the Scottish Island of Islay. Here, tens of thousands of geese will feed on grass and annoy farmers, who have then complained. This led to the Scottish government to sanction the killing of geese in 2010, resulting in around three thousand geese dying in 2017-2018.

A heartwarming story if there ever was one.