Konrad Lorenz: Mama Goose!

Konrad Lorenz was an Austrian zoologist, ethologist, and ornithologist: at times referred to as the a founder of modern ethology.

I just started reading one his books, King Solomon’s Ring. King Solomon was believed to have a ring that allowed him to speak to the animals and, many people believe, Lorenz had a similar ability. I haven’t had the time to read too much of this award-winning book yet, but so far it’s just perfect. If it continues on like this I’m sure I’ll write another “Humanima Book List” post about it!

Lorenz is best known for his experiments and time spent imprinting geese and ducks. That is what’s being talked about in the book right now. King Solomon’s Ring covers the behaviors of many different animals, not just our feathered friends, but at the spot I’m at it’s exploring how exactly Lorenz lived and observed these birds.

What he’s best known for and led him to become internationally recognized, was his classic experiment with newly hatched goslings (baby geese).

For this experiment, Lorenz split the eggs from the same goose into two, randomly-picked groups. Group A hatched in a natural environment and immediately began to follow mother goose around. Group B hatched in an incubator and the first living being they saw was Konrad Lorenz. So they immediately began to follow Mama Lorenz around… All the time.

It didn’t matter if Konrad ran into the woods or jumped into a lake: The goslings followed him everywhere. Even when he put Group A and Group B, from the same experiment, in one big group, the goslings would still split away and follow their “mother”.

After running many similar experiments on other bird species, Lorenz came to the conclusion that the imprinting in these birds occurs 12-17 hours after hatching. Actually, Lorenz coined the term “imprinting” although a few had experimented with this idea before him.

I was lucky enough to find this old, silent short film of Konrad and his birds. The way in which it was filmed and the lack of noise that we get so used to in this day in age is really refreshing. Made me smile!



Did you ever watch the movie Fly Away Home? If you haven’t, you should… I think you’d love it! Although it is definitely a tear-jerker. I bring it up because the movie’s plot is heavily inspired and brought about due to Lorenz’s experiments. In the movie, they imprinted goslings that followed them in an ultralight, like you can see below (I’m not certain this is a screenshot from the movie, though).

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