The bird is pale grey and is easily distinguished from any of the other grey geese of the genus Anser by the black bars on its head. It is also much paler than the other geese in this genus. In flight, its call is a typical goose honking. The adult weighs 1.87–3.2 kilograms (4.1–7.1 lb).
The Bar-headed Goose is often kept in captivity, as it is considered beautiful and breeds readily. Records in Great Britain are frequent, and almost certainly relate to escapes. However, the species has bred on several occasions in recent years and around five pairs were recorded in 2002, the most recent available report of the Rare Birds Breeding Panel. It is possible the species is becoming gradually more established in Great Britain. The bird is sociable and causes no problems for other birds. The "wild" population is believed to be declining in Great Britain due to over-hunting.