Mother Goose Fakes Injury, Outsmarts Leopard
An Egyptian goose mother uses the old broken wing gambit. She risks her own life in a ploy meant to throw off the scent of her chicks. The leopard, being a curious cat, after all, falls for it.
On the parched and cracked soil of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa, a goose family raises its young. The choice to raise your family here is dangerous, however, because predators share this land. One predator, the leopard, is notoriously deadly. Isn’t she a silly goose? Perhaps not so silly. Mama has some tricks up her wing.
This is a behavior we can see in many birds which raise their young on the ground rather than hidden in tree branches. Plovers, for instance, will do this, but there are other birds as well. It is a time tested technique, and as we can see in this video it works.
The leopard didn’t get to be this size by never finding its meal. It is on the path of the chicks. It’s probably not going to spend much time on sympathy before gobbling down the little balls of feather.
“Oh, Mr. Leopard…”
“I am hurt, and cannot fly.”
The leopard’s eyes narrow as it considers the opportunity. The poor goose will make an easy meal.
“I will stop your pain,” says the leopard. “I promise to make it quick and merciful.”
But as the leopard closes in on his quarry the goose runs away, her wings catching some air for lift.
“You’re not making this easy for me,” says Mr. Leopard.
“Catch me if you can,” says Mrs. Goose.
The chase is on! The leopard bolts into full pursuit. The goose launches just into the air, then turns. The leopard is expending too much energy. Can he keep it up? In this unbearable heat and parched environment the leopard could easily find itself winded and dehydrated, if he is not careful.
“I thought you were injured?” The leopard asks, confused by the goose’s nimble evasion.
“Oh, but you almost had me that time,” she teases. “Just a little further…I might not make it up this hill.”
Up the hill is exactly where she wants the murderous cat to go, because up there, her precious chicks will be safely out of sight and out of scent. The leopard falls for it, bolting up the knoll, expending vital energy stores. It thinks a meal is just within range. The goose drags her wing one last time, trailing it down the other side of the hill. The leopard closes in, but is lead on a wild goose chase. She takes off, leaving him disappointed and hungry.