"Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0"
The latest word from the journal Science about Bar-headed Geese is that they can fly really high.
Like almost-the-summit-of-Everest high.
Actually, legend has it Bar-headed Geese have been seen flying over it at 29 thousand feet, but researchers have only tracked them to 24 thousand using GPS. But that’s still mighty impressive, given the physical cost of getting to that altitude for a bird that constantly flaps its wings.
They do it by staying close to the ground. Sounds easy, but in the Himalayas, the ground is quite vertical. That means these amazing birds gain and lose vast amounts of altitude only to re-gain it over the course of a long journey – something like going on a roller coaster ride if you had to run the length of the tracks rather than ride.
It makes one think Old Mother Goose may not have always been the doddering, bespectacled granny figure in a rocking chair. Perhaps she looked down on Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay while making up rhymes somewhat like (but not quite) “To Market, To Market.”
To mountain, to mountain, to go very high.
Down again, down again, out of the sky.
To mountain, to mountain, to flap in thin air.
Down again, down again, nary a care.
To mountain, to mountain, on wings and not legs.
Down again, down again, hawks can suck eggs.
The stamina of these amazing birds was described this way in the Science article:
“In the lab, they nudged geese to run on treadmills in reduced oxygen to simulate high altitudes, which revealed that the birds could keep running at top speed for 15 minutes. Humans would not be able to sustain that pace in such conditions.”
Goosey, goosey flyers,
Bird who never tires.
Upskies and downskies
What strength your life requires!
As speedy as the jaguars,
As fearsome as the bears.
An up-and-downy athlete
who doesn’t take the stairs.
Picture it – a goose on a treadmill. Fifteen minutes, full speed, nonstop. Who says science isn’t fun?
What was your most amazing physical feat?