Geographical Range Summer breeding grounds: central Asia, mainly Mongolia and China; winters in northern India
Habitat Breeds in variety of wetlands at higher elevations; winters in lowland swamps, lakes and rivers
Scientific Name Anser indicus
Conservation Status Common

If they gave an award for the highest-flying bird, the bar-headed goose would win easily. During its annual migration, this species travels directly over the Himalayas on its route between its nesting grounds and winter quarters in India. Bar-headed geese have been seen flying well above the peak of Mt. Everest – more than 29,000 feet above sea level! This makes it the highest consistent flier of all bird species.

This handsome stout-bodied goose gets its name from the double bars of dark feathers that wrap around the back of its white head. Its body is light grey and its legs and bill are bright orange. Males and females are identical.

Bar-headed geese are mainly vegetarian. They feed primarily on grasses, roots, stems and other plant parts, as well as on grains, tubers and occasionally seaweed.

The birds usually nest in dense colonies. A female lays from four to six eggs, which take about a month to hatch. Chicks leave the nest after about 53 days.

In the colder months (October through March), bar-headed geese live in low-lying swamps in northern India and Burma. When the weather warms up they take to the skies on their annual migration to their summer breeding grounds in the high mountain lakes and wetlands of central Asia.

There’s a secret to these birds’ ability to fly higher than other birds. Scientists have found that their blood cells contain a special type of hemoglobin (a blood protein) that absorbs oxygen very quickly at high altitudes. Another advantage: their capillaries (small blood vessels) extend especially deeply into their muscles, thereby improving the transfer of oxygen to their muscle fibers.