Bar-Headed Goose

Bar-Headed Goose

Scientific Classification

Common Name
bar-headed goose, gray goose
Genus Species
Anser (goose) indicus

Fast Facts

This species is gray and white with two horseshoe-shaped, brownish-black bars on the back of its white head. The body is gray overall, and the bill and legs are pink, orange, or yellow.
Approximately 75 cm (30 in.)
1.87 to 3 kg (4 to 6.5 lbs.)
Includes plants and occasionally crustaceans and invertebrates
27 days
Clutch Size
4 to 6 eggs
Fledging Duration
50 days
Sexual Maturity
Approximately 3 years
Life Span
No data
The Bar-Headed Goose has an extremely large range and can be found in Afghanistan, Bangladesh Bhutan, China, India; Mongolia; Myanmar; Nepal; Pakistan; Russia, Thailand and Vietnam. The have also been introduced to Canada and Spain.
These geese prefer high altitude mountain lakes.
Global: Their world population is very large with at least 10,000 mature individuals. Their global population appears to be declining but none of their sub-populations are severely fragmented.
IUCN: Least concern
CITES: Not listed
USFWS:  Not listed

Fun Facts

Bar-headed geese are hardy birds. Every spring large flocks of bar-headed geese fly from India through the Himalayan range, above Mount Everest, on their way to their nesting grounds in Tibet. They are capable of flying through the passes of the highest mountains at heights of 3658 to 4267 m (12,000 to 14,000 ft) with winds that blow at speeds of more than 322 kph (200 mph) and temperatures low enough to freeze exposed flesh instantly. At this height, oxygen levels drop by one-third; even kerosene cannot burn there and helicopters cannot fly at that altitude.

Their powerful and constant flight helps generate body heat, which is retained by their down feathers. Such heat helps keep ice from building up on their wings when flying over mountains.

These geese also have a special type of hemoglobin that absorbs oxygen quicker than other birds; they can also extract more oxygen from each breath than other birds can.

These geese are able to migrate more than 1609 km (1,000 mi.) in a single day.

Scientists believe the geese's yearly migration is triggered by an environmental signal that allows them to miss the summer monsoon season and the worst winter storms.

These geese rely on flapping their wings, not on gliding, and are able to fly over 80 kph (50 mph) without wind to assist them. In fact, they are so strong that they are able to fly in crosswinds without being blown off course.

Ecology and Conservation

Not only are these geese an integral part of the ecosystem, but they are also important to science. Researchers believe that with better data about the bar-headed geese's resistance to extreme temperatures, they could help humans better cope with altitude and respiratory diseases.


Palmer, R.S. (ed.). Handbook of North American Birds. Vol. 4. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.

Scott, Peter. A Coloured Key of the Wildfowl of the World. Slimbridge, England. The Wildfowl Trust. 1988.

Todd, F.S. Natural History of Waterfowl. San Diego, Ca. Ibis Publishing Co., 1996.

BirdLife International. 2016. Anser indicus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22679893A92834171. Downloaded on 05 November 2018.