Bar-headed geese can be found at high elevations. They use habitats like mountain grasslands and crop fields from surrounding villages. Bar-headed geese tend to use freshwater marshes, lakes, and streams that are around elevations of 4,000 to 6,000 meters above sea level as stop-over and over-wintering sites. Some geese have even been reported to migrate at altitudes of 9,000 meters when they cross the Himalaya Mountains. (Guo-Gang, et al., 2011; Middleton, 1992; Scott, et al., 2009; Takekawa, et al., 2009)
- Terrestrial Biomes
- savanna or grassland
- Aquatic Biomes
- lakes and ponds
- rivers and streams
- brackish water
- Other Habitat Features
- Range elevation
- Sea Level to 6,000 m
- to ft
Bar-headed geese have grey bodies, with orange legs and a black and white neck. This species is named for the obvious black U-shaped bars on the back of the white head. They weigh between 2 and 3 kg (4.5 and 6.5 lbs) with a wingspan between 140 and 160 cm (55 and 62 inch), and are between 68 and 78 cm (27 and 30 inch) in length. Bar-headed geese have a basal metabolic rate of 756 cubic centimeters of oxygen per hour. (Tammelin, 2012; Ward, et al., 2002)
- Sexual Dimorphism
- sexes alike
- Range mass
- 2.0 to 3.0 kg
- 4.41 to 6.61 lb
- Range length
- 68 to 78 cm
- 26.77 to 30.71 in
- Range wingspan
- 140 to 160 cm
- 55.12 to 62.99 in
- Average basal metabolic rate
- 756 cm3.O2/g/hr
Bar-headed geese are seasonal breeders. They exhibit a monogamous mating system, where males pair with one single female for several years. During times when the population is biased towards females a polygynous system is adopted where a monogamous pair may be joined by multiple secondary females. These secondary females also breed with the male of the pair. Because they breed in large colonies, females defend their nests from socially lower females that may be using brood parasitism to increase the likely hood of their offspring's survival. (Lamprecht, 1987)
Bar-headed geese typically breed on an annual basis. This occurs during the spring. Nesting occurs from the last week of April until June. They typically lay 3 to 8 eggs on average. After 28 to 30 days the goslings hatch. There was little information on the birth mass of the goslings. They then fledge by 55 to 60 days, and reach sexual maturity at 3 years of age. Bar-headed geese tend to breed on the Tibetan-Qinghai Plateau. They lay their eggs in ground nests at high elevations in the highland marshes and lakes. (Prins and van Wieren, 2004; Takekawa, et al., 2009)
- Key Reproductive Features
- seasonal breeding
- gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
- Breeding interval
- Bar-headed geese breed annually (once yearly).
- Breeding season
- Bar-headed geese breed in the last week of April through July.
- Range eggs per season
- 3 to 8
- Range time to hatching
- 28 to 30 days
- Range fledging age
- 55 to 60 days
- Range time to independence
- 55 to 60 days
- Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
- 3 years
- Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
- 3 years
Bar-headed geese use biparental care when raising young. Studies show that male bar-headed geese are more alert and defensive when in the presence of their goslings. These same studies show that the goslings have the added benefit of an increased survival rate from having both parents. Both parents provide their goslings with protection from predators and other geese. In addition to that the parents also protect the goslings' food. (Friedl, 1993; Schneider and Lamprecht, 1990)
Little information is published on the lifespan of bar-headed geese. Like most geese they are long-lived. A close relative, greylag geese, have a lifespan of 20 years in the wild and the oldest one in captivity lived 31 years. (de Magalhaes and Costa, 2009; de Magalhaes and Costa, 2009)
- Average lifespan
- 20 years
- Average lifespan
- Average lifespan
- 20 years
- Average lifespan
This species is typical to most in the order Anseriformes in that they are a social species migrating in family groups or large colonies. They are very motile migrating twice a year over the Himalaya Mountains to and from their breeding grounds on the Tibetan-Qinghai Plateau. They migrate in "V"-formations or variations of it. They have a social hierarchy consisting of mated male-female pairs being the highest, followed by secondary females that are usually part of a harem, and lowest socially is lone females. This harem usually forms when the population is biased towards females. Bar-headed geese make ground nests with shallow depressions at high elevations. They defend these nests from predators and from other socially lower females. ("Bar-headed geese - the astronauts among migratory birds", 2011; Prins and van Wieren, 2004; Scott, et al., 2009; Speakman and Banks, 1998)
Their Breeding range is in Western China, Mongolia, and on the Tibetan-Qinghai Plateau. Their non-breeding range is in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. (Prins and van Wieren, 2004; Schneider and Lamprecht, 1990; Scott, et al., 2009; Ward, et al., 2002)
Communication and Perception
Like most geese, bar-headed geese fly in "V"-shaped formations. When the lead bird gets tired they fall to the back of the formation and another goose takes the lead. The formation can vary from a traditional V to other shapes like "J"-shape and the echeleon shape where one arm of the "V"-shape is missing. The benefit of this style of flight is that each individual flies with reduced drag, which in turn saves them energy. They use vocal communications and visual cues to maintain their spacing while flying in these formations. This also assists them in staying in closely related family groups as they move from traditional feeding and breeding areas. Like other waterfowl they can also see in the ultraviolet spectrum of light. (Speakman and Banks, 1998)
Bar-headed geese generally feed on the highland grasses surrounding their lakes and streams where they nest. During other times of the year they can be found eating on agricultural crops such as corn, wheat, barley, and rice. (Akbar, et al., 2005)
- Animal Foods
- Plant Foods
- roots and tubers
- seeds, grains, and nuts
From the air the bar-headed geese are prey for sea eagles, golden eagles, crows, and ravens. On the ground the geese are preyed upon by red foxes. Some of the adaptations the geese have developed is the ability to survive at high altitudes. This limits the amount of ground predators that can reach them. They can survive at high altitudes because they have a higher density of capillaries that are spaced closer together this allows them to deliver more oxygen to their muscles, in particular their flight muscles. In addition to their capillaries they also have hemoglobin in their blood that is more efficient at taking in oxygen. Another adaptation is that these geese tend to live in large colonies or smaller family groups which enhances predator detection. (Prins and van Wieren, 2004; Scott, et al., 2009)
These geese are prey for animals such as red foxes, and golden eagles. Some can also be parasites by using higher ranked females as hosts to raise their offspring. In addition they are also carriers of the H5N1 virus and capable of passing the virus to humans, and other animals as well. They assist in the dispersal of grass seeds they eat throughout the year. (Cui, et al., 2011; Prins and van Wieren, 2004; Weigmann and Lamprecht, 1991)
- Ecosystem Impact
- disperses seeds
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
These geese benefit humans because of ecotourism to the wildlife areas that they use as refueling stops during their migrations. "The East Calcutta Wetlands in Western Bengal (a stop over site for migrating Bar-headed Geese) has environmental benefits worth 38.54 million dollars"(Bhattacharyya et al., 2008). (Bhattacharyya, et al., 2008)
- Positive Impacts
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
Bar-headed geese were one of the first species to show signs of the H5N1 (Bird Flu) virus. In addition to carrying the virus the geese are also pests to the local villagers. Since they feed on the wheat, rice, and other crops around their roosting areas, they can cause damage to farm fields. (Cui, et al., 2011)
- Negative Impacts
- carries human disease
- crop pest
Bar-headed geese are listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concerned. They have no special status under the US Migratory Bird Act or on the US Federal List because there is no population living in the US. Nor are they protected under the US Endangered Species Act. CITES contains no special status for the species either. (Butchart and Symes, 2012)
Dominick Cucinello (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Christopher Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Laura Podzikowski (editor), Special Projects.
living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.
uses sound to communicate
living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.
- bilateral symmetry
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
- brackish water
areas with salty water, usually in coastal marshes and estuaries.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.
- dominance hierarchies
ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates
humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
- female parental care
parental care is carried out by females
union of egg and spermatozoan
an animal that mainly eats leaves.
mainly lives in water that is not salty.
an animal that mainly eats seeds
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
(as perception channel keyword). This animal has a special ability to detect the Earth's magnetic fields.
- male parental care
parental care is carried out by males
marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.
makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
- native range
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
having more than one female as a mate at one time
- seasonal breeding
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
- tropical savanna and grassland
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
- temperate grassland
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
uses sight to communicate
- young precocial
young are relatively well-developed when born
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