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The trans-Himalayan flights of bar-headed geese (Anser indicus)


Hawkes, LA and Balachandran, S and Batbayar, N and Butler, PJ and Frappell, PB and Milsom, WK and Tseveenmyadag, N and Newman, SH and Scott, GR and Sathiyaselvam, P and Takekawa, JY and Wikelski, M and Bishop, CM, The trans-Himalayan flights of bar-headed geese (Anser indicus), National Academy of Sciences of The United States of America. Proceedings, 108, (23) pp. 9516-9519. ISSN 0027-8424 (2011) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2011 National Academy of Sciences

DOI: doi:10.1073/pnas.1017295108


Birds that fly over mountain barriers must be capable of meeting the increased energetic cost of climbing in low-density air, even though less oxygen may be available to support their metabolism. This challenge is magnified by the reduction in maximum sustained climbing rates in large birds. Bar-headed geese (Anser indicus) make one of the highest and most iconic transmountain migrations in the world. We show that those populations of geese that winter at sea level in India are capable of passing over the Himalayas in 1 d, typically climbing between 4,000 and 6,000 m in 78 h. Surprisingly, these birds do not rely on the assistance of upslope tailwinds that usually occur during the day and can support minimum climb rates of 0.82.2 kmh−1, even in the relative stillness of the night. They appear to strategically avoid higher speed winds during the afternoon, thus maximizing safety and control during flight. It would seem, therefore, that bar-headed geese are capable of sustained climbing flight over the passes of the Himalaya under their own aerobic power.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:exercise physiology, high altitude, satellite tracking, vertebrate migration, climbing flight
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Zoology
Research Field:Animal physiology - systems
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Terrestrial biodiversity
UTAS Author:Frappell, PB (Professor Peter Frappell)
ID Code:76257
Year Published:2011
Web of Science® Times Cited:104
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2012-03-02
Last Modified:2017-11-01

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