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Highest-flying bird makes extreme migration

Two weeks ago, I blogged about the amazing migration habits of Great Snipes that fly more than 4,000 miles at 50 mph nonstop.

Now, scientists say the migration habits of the Bar-Headed Goose might be the “most extreme migration on Earth,” according to ScienceNow.

These birds start at sea level and fly up to altitudes higher than Mount Everest in a matter of hours, which is the longest continuous climbing rate ever recorded. Unlike other birds that depend on the aid of tailwinds to lift them higher, the geese start their ascent at night or early morning when tailwinds are least present. That means they make their ascent with sheer will and strength.

Pretty much any other animal making an ascent that quickly into altitudes where the air is thin and oxygen pressure are low would suffer severe ramifications. In fact, the lead author of the study said in a PhysOrg article that “If we didn’t acclimatize, we’d almost certainly get altitude sickness, edema or we could even die.”

The birds survive their journey through physical adaptations, including proportionately bigger lungs, a better supply of oxygen and denser capillaries. All these things ensure the supply of oxygen in the bird remain consistent.

This feat along with other recent discoveries illustrates just how amazing birds can be when it comes to migration. Thanks to the need to fly over the Himalayan mountains, the Bar-Headed Geese have adapted to the light air at unbelievable altitudes.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.