Whiffling: The Art of Flying Upside Down

Aug 6, 2021 2 comments

geese Whiffling

This image of a goose flying upside down captured by photographer Vincent Cornelissen has created a buzz online. In the viral photo, the goose is seen with its body upside down, with its neck twisted so that the head is the right way up. Many people are wondering if such a thing is even possible.

While it looks painful, such a maneuver is indeed possible and is a tried and tested way of braking, called whiffling. By turning the body upside down, the aerodynamics which usually give a bird lift during flying are inverted causing the bird to plummet towards the ground. Whiffling allows the bird to rapidly lose speed and height either for a fast landing or to throw off avian predators.

The behavior is seen in several species aside from geese including lesser yellowlegs, the black-tailed godwit, the northern lapwing, three species of scoter, and other members of the family Anatidae.

geese Whiffling

geese Whiffling

Photo: Wildshots of Scotland/Flickr

geese Whiffling

Photo: JimP1445/Flickr

geese Whiffling

Photo: Rck953 | Dreamstime.com

geese Whiffling

Photo: Stan Lupo/Flickr


  1. Just discoered this site and I love it. Today, I especially enjoyed the windows of the world and the unside down flying birds. Thank you for taking my mind off covid.

  2. Ah! This finally makes sense of a character called the Whiffle Bird in Julie Andrews' fantastic book 'The last of the Really Great Whangdoodles.'
    The bird in question flies in a really chaotic tumbling manner.


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