University of British Columbia, during “test flights“, birds wear masks they were trained to wear as goslings, which provide them with oxygen levels that simulate high altitude. The masks collected gas that the birds breathe, measuring how much precious oxygen they use in flight.
Dr Meir explained that the research into the “remarkable geese” revealed how the birds are specially adapted to fly at extremely high altitude. Their blood can carry far more oxygen to their muscles than other birds. But while most studies have focused on the birds while they are at rest, Dr Meir wanted to create a “picture of oxygen delivery while the bird is flying”.
Fortunately for her, the university’s engineering department has a wind tunnel wide enough for a goose – with a wingspan of more than 1.5m – to fly in. Tracking studies have recorded the birds at heights of 6,000m (just under 20,000 feet) – something they need to achieve in order to complete their migration through the Himalayas.