"I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven."
Emily Dickinson

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Birds have ways to beat the heat

Splish, splash. A finch in the bath.  Photo by J.J. Meyer
            With our temperatures skyrocketing, even the birds have to find ways to keep their cool. 
             Birds possess both physiological and behavioral adaptations to help them beat the heat.  Scientists refer to this as thermoregulation. 
Without sweat glands, they can’t perspire like humans, nor do they pant like dogs.  Instead, birds open their bills to expose their mucous membranes to the air, which sends cooler air into their air sacs.  They also flutter their throats in a form of avian panting called “gular fluttering.” 
Birds sleek down their feathers to avoid trapping air next to their skin when the environment is too warm.   It’s also common to see birds sitting with open wings, which circulates air next to their bodies.  Some species are known to spread their wings to shade their nestlings from the sun.  
Like many other species, birds will become less active in the heat.  They retreat to the shade where they can hide and cool off.   
And of course, birds cool off in water.  We can help our backyard birds by providing a clean water source for drinking and bathing.
Happy birding and keep cool!

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