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Wild Bird Migratory Ecology, Emerging Disease Risk and Physiology in Western Mongolia

Bar-headed geese being held prior to marking and release near Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake, Mongolia in July 2009. --Photographer: Charles Bishop
Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake in west-central Mongolia is an important breeding and molting areas for Bar-headed geese and other migratory waterfowl. Bar-headed geese migrate along the Central Asian Flyway breeding in Qinghai Lake, China and parts of Mongolia and spend winter between Tibet Autonomous Region, China and India. The largest outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in wild birds occurred at Qinghai Lake in 2005, followed by an outbreak at Erkhel Lake, Mongolia, suggesting a possible migratory linkage between these regions. Outbreaks of HPAI H5N1 affecting Bar-headed geese have continued to occur in 2006 and 2009 at breeding sites in Mongolia. In addition, some of the geese fly over the Himalayas to reach their wintering destinations, encountering spatial and altitudinal gradients that pose physiological challenges to their migration.

Project Details

An international team from the US Geological Survey (Western Ecological Research Center, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, and Alaska Science Center), the United Nations-FAO, and the Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences have been studing the disease ecology of bar-headed geese in western Mongolia. Our team has also been working in cooperation with the University of Wales Bangor, University of Birmingham, University of Tasmania, and University of British Columbia to also examine migratory ecology and flight performance with the support of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. In eastern Mongolia, migration and disease ecology of swan geese and whooper swans were studied along the East Asian Flyway with satellite telemetry.


The objectives of the research were to:

1) capture and mark Bar-headed geese in western Mongolia to examine their migration routes and flight performance during their ascent over the Himalaya; and

2) sample the geese for avian influenza to assess their role as a possible agent for dispersal for HPAI H5N1.

FAO Contact For This Project 
    Scott Newman
    EMPRES Wildlife Unit
    Food & Agriculture Organization, United Nations
    Rome, Italy 00153

USGS Contact For This Project
John Takekawa - Emeritus
(707) 562-2000
San Francisco Bay Estuary Field Station
505 Azuar Drive
Vallejo, CA 94592
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