Bar-headed geese cross Himalayas in one night

By in science
Bar-headed geese migration

Beautiful photo of two bar-headed geese migrating. Photo by John Downer.

Bar-headed geese are known for their exhausting migration route over the Himalayas, reaching extreme heights up to 10,175m and traveling distances of 1500km in a single day. Although it was already known these high-flyers are physiologically and biochemically adapted to flying at these altitudes where oxygen levels and temperatures are both extremely low, it remained unclear how they performed this incredible energy-costly feat.

Previously, researchers hypothesized the bar-headed geese must use the prevailing winds to ease their flight across the world’s highest mountains. Now a new paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (online) reveals the geese actually fly mostly throughout the night when winds are light and actually cross the Himalayas in a single 8 hour flight!

Bar-headed geese

The world’s highest migrating bird the Bar headed Goose

The authors suggest early flight could be more energy efficient because the cooler morning air is denser than warm air, giving them more uplift with each wingbeat as well as reducing the amount of heat dissipation for their activity. Further, since stormy weather is more common in the Himalayas during the afternoon the geese might strategically avoid flying at these times higher to maximize safety and control during flight.

Bar headed goose migration

Bar-headed geese on their way to their breeding grounds in central Asia. Photo by ]srikanthgp.

* Lucy A. Hawkes,, * Sivananinthaperumal Balachandran,, * Nyambayar Batbayar,, * Patrick J. Butler,, * Peter B. Frappell,, * William K. Milsom,, * Natsagdorj Tseveenmyadag,, * Scott H. Newman,, * Graham R. Scott,, * Ponnusamy Sathiyaselvam,, * John Y. Takekawa,, * Martin Wikelski,, & * and Charles M. Bishop (2011). The trans-Himalayan flights of bar-headed geese (Anser indicus) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1017295108
  • khaja

    hi, this is khaja form andhra paradesh Hyderabad i like this type of birds those geting world records…