Record breaking wildfowl

Record breaking birds in Sheffield

OK. It’s a bit of a hyped-up title. But, there is some truth in it. Yesterday I popped out mid-afternoon. The juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was at Orgreave, but flew off south. Wondering if it might reappear at Rother Valley Country Park, I headed there. No sign on the nature reserve lake, so I headed for the ‘bread zone’ where members of the public feed semi-tame wildfowl. Sitting down to ponder the ferals with an over-expensive ice-cream,

I saw this:

Its one of the great record breakers of the ‘Bird World’. Read on to find out why. Here it is being a bit more identifiable:

OK now guard your reaction! I know. It’s a Bar-headed Goose, Anser indicus. Not a wild bird – in Sheffield. Not interesting. That’s was MY initial reaction. Until a noticed another bird nearby, which, with a bit of quick deduction I realised was a juvenile Bar-headed Goose. A plumage tick (I think?):

Neither bird was ringed. My best guess is that someone who can longer keep them has very recently dropped them off at the ‘bread zone’.

update: Sheffield’s pie man says Bar-headed Geese breed at Queens Park, Chesterfield (next city south of Sheffield).

So whats so great about the Bar-headed Goose. Respect please:

It’s the highest flying migrant bird in the World.

The Bar-headed Goose travels directly over the Himalayas en route between its nesting grounds in Tibet and winter quarters in India (and less frequently Pakistan and Burma). They have been seen flying well above the peak of Mt. Everest at 29,035 ft to maximum recorded of 33,382 feet. Their journey was a featured stories on the documentary: Planet Earth. The journey over the mountains is a difficult one and wind conditions can force the birds backwards where they will rest and try again the next day.

Bar-headed Geese have special adaptations that make them even better at high-flying than other birds. They have a special type of hemoglobin that absorbs oxygen very quickly at high altitudes, and their capillaries penetrate especially deep within their muscles to transfer oxygen to the muscle fibers.

So no tut-tutting or snide comments. This blog post is written in honour of one of the great ‘frontier birds’ and I got to enjoy the presence of a couple of them just down the road yesterday – quite unexpectedly.

Adult and juvenile Bar-headed Geese. RVCP, Sheffield, 19th August 2010

The upperpart feathers on the adult are broad and square ended, whereas those of the juvenile are thinner and with more round end, and neat pale fringe. The difference in these feathers is a  key method  of ageing the ‘grey geese’.

2 thoughts on “Record breaking wildfowl

  1. Kev Gould

    Hi Martin, sorry to break the sad news to you, but the Bar-headed Goose juvenile in your photo is the only survivor from a clutch of 4 youngsters that hatched on the island about 50-60 metres from the “bread-zone” !!!! Although its looking good and healthy I am reliably informed that only one adult bird has been seen. Taking into account some of the lurid goings-on that occur at RVCP, we shall wait and see if it develops into a pure Bar-head,or if some other shenanigans have taken place! The tension mounts,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,!
    Cheers Kev

    1. Martin Garner

      sshh, you just exposed how infrequently I visit RVCP. Thanks for that Kev -I did wonder about t’other adult bird. The juvenile has the general right structure, bare part colour and plumage for Bar-head. Maybe it could be a bit greyer but I certainly can’t confess any knowledge of the plumage – so let see what unfolds. I will leave it up to you for timely updates!.

      you scouting for the January bird race then?!


Leave a Reply