Reflection: This time last year, the hot topic was ‘goose holes’


The garden at Penllech Farm has walls with small cavities cut into the stone


From May 2019


My diary reports a visit to see friends at their farm house in North Wales. One entry reads: “The garden at Penllech Farm has walls with small cavities cut into the stone. These, I’m told, are ‘goose holes’, a safe haven from predatory foxes.” 

At the time I found it hard to believe a wily fox would not identify this “safe haven” as a perfect place to trap unsuspecting birds, so today I opened an investigation and tapped out a search for “goose holes”. A fascinating answer popped up on the Quora Q&A site.

Q: What would happen if ducks and geese didn’t have holes in their beaks?

A: The holes in their beaks are nostrils, called nares. If ducks and geese didn’t have them, they would have to breathe through their mouths, the same as if you didn’t have a nose. Diving birds have special receptors in their nares that modify their metabolism and allow them to conserve oxygen while they dive. Without them, they would be much more limited in their diving capability.

The investigation is now closed.

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