Harteman Wildfowl, presented by Jan Harteman
Commonly kept and seen in captivity, the Bar-headed Goose is one of the best "beginner" geese in aviculture. In the wild, this species can be found in central Asia, north of the Himalayas. The birds migrate across the mountain range, reaching altitudes of more than 26,000 feet, to Pakistan and India to Winter.
The Bar-headed Goose is a very attractive species. Both sexes share the twin-barring on the head. The rest of the head is white with a streak running down the sides of the neck. The back of the neck is dark gray to black, rest of the body gray overall. To insure you have a pair, you may need to vent sex. Immature geese are somewhat paler and lack the bars on the head.
The breeding season for Bar-heads begin in late May when the pair begins to search for the right nesting area. In captivity, some geese will used open front nest boxes filled with wood shavings or straw. Also provide stands of grass and weeds or shrubs. Like many species of waterfowl, hens first line their nest with down feathers from her breast. Clutch sizes vary from 3 to 7 eggs which only the hen incubates for about 28 days. They have been observed in the wild nesting on cliffs and even in trees in old nests made by other birds!
Both of the parents care for the goslings which are grayish-brown and yellow. The young fledge at about 50 days of age. Will often double-clutch if the first eggs are removed. Some may breed the second year, but as with many members of the Anser genus, the third year is most common.
Bar-heads are among the calmest of the geese species, associating well with other species of waterfowl. They can become extremely tame, following their keeper around waiting for a treat! This trait has also been noticed in the wild in areas where the goose is not threatened.
This goose is mostly vegetarian, feeding on seeds and plant matter in the wild. In captivity, provide a high protein ration during the breeding season and lower protein during the "off-season". Be sure to supplement with forage items year round such as grass clippings, alfalfa and brome hay, as well as other greens. They also love to graze when allowed free range.
Overall, the Bar-head is a great addition to the aviary or barnyard. Their easy going nature, availabity of unrelated stock, high resitance to disease and ease of breeding make them very popular with beginners to the hobby.
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern (IUCN, 2012).
Above: Three Bar-headed geese (front) and Demoiselle cranes (background)