BBC - Earth - Barnacle gosling’s terrifying cliff tumble
In their first few days of life, tiny barnacle goslings are faced with one of the most extreme survival challenges in the natural world.
Tue Jul 12 09:48:28 2016 - permalink -
Barnacle geese nest hundreds of feet up to avoid predators such as Arctic foxes. The geese eat only grass and as parents don't feed their young, the only way for the goslings to survive is to make the daredevil descent.
Without robust wings necessary to fly down the cliff, the newly hatched goslings’ best chance is a lucky parachute-style drop. How the chicks land is the ultimate decider of life or death.
If the chicks bounce on their fluffy bellies on the way down, they are more likely to survive the impacts. They must be reunited with their parents on the scree slope below – then evade hungry predators.
The young are imprinted, meaning they will follow their mother anywhere, but they still exhibited some reluctance to jump off the cliff.
“It would range from about half an hour from that moment to half a day, depending how nervous they were,” Tom said.
but described witnessing one group of chicks snatched by an arctic fox as “bleak”.
“You’re sort of impressed by how they manage to get down there, I guess you could call it the courage of these chicks. [But] to then just be obliterated by these foxes… It was surprisingly sad for three hardened men!” said Tom.
Fortunately, the other chicks filmed were luckier and the team had the satisfaction of following them all the way to their feeding grounds.