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Quite simply: What is this animal?

I have searched through various wildlife identification guides (particularly ducks and geese) and have so far not found anything close.

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    I think I've got it! It looks like a bar-headed goose. Let me make sure and write up an answer. – Sue Mar 15 '17 at 20:06
  • I must also confess that I did not see this goose in person, but found this image on the internet. I sent it to a friend as part of a joke and when we started talking realized that neither of us had the slightest idea of what it actually was, nor knew enough to even search effectively. – ThunderGuppy Mar 15 '17 at 20:25
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I believe this is a bar-headed goose.

Group of Bar-headed geese Source Group of swimming geese Source

The Bar-headed Goose has a white head with distinctive black bars or stripes on its head, black extending down the front and back of the neck, leaving a white stripe down the sides of the neck, the upperparts and breast are medium grey, flanks are grey turning brown on rear flanks, vent and tail border are white, beak is yellow-orange with black tip, and legs and feet are yellow-orange. Both sexes are alike.

Size: - Typical Adult is 71-76cm (28-30in).

Food: - Aquatic plants, and grazes on grasses, wheat, barley, and rice.

Habitat/Range: - Wetlands, high-altitude lakes, and cultivated fields in central Asia, and Tibet. They winter further south in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Bar-headed geese are monogamous throughout a breeding season, and generally gather in colonies of up to 1,000 pairs.

The source page of the above information has a number of pictures, a recording of their vocalizations, and a video of the geese in action.

This is a very unique goose. In fact, according to a fascinating study reported in National Geographic, it's the highest flying bird found. On their migration from India to Mongolia for breeding, they have to fly over the Himalaya mountain range, which is the tallest mountain range in the world.

In 2009, an international team of researchers tagged 25 bar-headed geese in India with GPS transmitters in order to monitor their two-month migration. They reached a peak height of nearly 21,120 feet (6,437 meters), and covered a distance up to 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers)!

The birds made frequent rest stops during the migration, but they appear to have flown over the Himalayan portion of their journey in a single effort that took about eight hours on average and that included little or no rest. A similar intense climb could kill a human without proper acclimatization, Hawkes said.

These are flying above the Tibetan Plateau. (Picture source)

Birds in flight

Here are some more fun facts:

  1. Bar-headed geese are hardy birds! They are capable of flying through the passes of the highest mountains with winds that blow at speeds of more than 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 there.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. These geese are able to migrate - more than 1,000 miles - in a single day.

  5. 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.

  6. These geese rely on flapping their wings - not on gliding - and are able to fly over 50 miles an hour without wind to assist them. In fact, they are so strong that they are able to fly in crosswinds without being blown off course.

Also, 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. Source

Bar-headed geese are monogamous throughout a breeding season, and generally gather in colonies of up to 1,000 pairs.

Here is a group resting at home in the Maguri-Motapung Beel wetland in Tinsukia, India. Hanging out at home

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    Holy crap. That is an awesome answer! Thank you so much for all the info! – ThunderGuppy Mar 15 '17 at 21:27
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    Thanks so much for the support! I'm having fun learning about this amazing animal! – Sue Mar 15 '17 at 21:29
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    @Sue -- in Arrested Development, there is a scene where Michael finds a bag marked "Dead Dove" in the refrigerator. He peeks in and sees it contains... a dead dove. "I don't know what I expected," he mutters, and this line has become a byword on the Internet for the answer to a question being unexpectedly obvious. The OP asked about a goose that had bars (as ornithographers refer to colored stripes on feathers) on its head, and was told it is a bar-headed goose. – Malvolio Mar 15 '17 at 22:54
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    What an amazing creature! Great info. I shall informally call it a "stripey-goose"! – PhasedOut Mar 16 '17 at 16:17

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