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A photo of a Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus)
Bar-headed Goose

Bar-headed Goose

Anser indicus

The bar-headed goose, Anser indicus, is a remarkable species known for its striking appearance and incredible high-altitude flights. This pale grey goose is distinguished by two distinctive black bars on its head, setting it apart from other members of the Anser genus. It is a mid-sized bird, measuring between 71 to 76 cm in length and weighing between 1.87 to 3.2 kg.

Identification Tips

When identifying the bar-headed goose, look for the unique black bars on the head, which are the key distinguishing feature. The bird's overall pale grey plumage contrasts with these markings. In flight, its honking call is characteristic of geese, aiding in identification from a distance.

Habitat

During the summer, the bar-headed goose can be found around high-altitude lakes where it grazes on short grass. These areas provide the ideal setting for breeding and feeding.

Distribution

The bar-headed goose breeds in Central Asia, including regions such as Tibet, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Russia. It is known for its winter migration to South Asia, reaching as far south as peninsular India.

Behaviour

This species is renowned for its migratory patterns, particularly for the extreme altitudes it reaches when crossing the Himalayas. The bar-headed goose has been recorded at elevations over 7,000 meters, showcasing remarkable physiological adaptations to hypoxic conditions.

Song & Calls

The bar-headed goose emits a typical goose honking sound, especially noticeable during flight, which can be used as an auditory clue for identification.

Breeding

Breeding occurs in colonies of thousands near mountain lakes, where the bar-headed goose lays three to eight eggs in a ground nest. The Tibetan Plateau serves as the primary breeding ground for this species.

Similar Species

While there are no other members of the Anser genus indigenous to the Indian region, the bar-headed goose can be confused with other grey geese. However, the black bars on its head and paler plumage are distinctive features that help differentiate it.

Diet and Feeding

In its winter habitat, the bar-headed goose feeds on cultivated fields, consuming crops such as barley, rice, and wheat. This can sometimes lead to crop damage.

Conservation status

The IUCN lists the bar-headed goose as Least Concern. While the total population may be increasing, assessing trends is complex due to the species' extensive range.

The bar-headed goose is a testament to the wonders of avian adaptation, thriving in environments that would be inhospitable to many other species. Its presence in the skies above the Himalayas is a marvel to behold, a true high-flyer in every sense.

Bar-headed Goose Sounds

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Recorded by: © 
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Bar-headed Goose Fun Facts

Did you know?
Mountaineers have seen Bar-headed Geese flying over Mount Everest at an altitude of 8,849m (29,030ft).

Bar-headed Geese on Birda

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