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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How birds keep their cool on hot days

Photo by J.J. Meyer
              The notorious Santa Ana winds blew into Southern California Monday bringing with it temperatures in the 90s.  People can crank up the air conditioner, but how do birds beat the heat?
              Birds have several physiological and behavioral adaptations to help them maintain a constant body temperature of 105 to 107 degrees.  Something scientists refer to as thermoregulation.
Without sweat glands, birds 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.  And like many other species, birds will become less active in the heat.  They will retreat to the shade where they can hide and cool off.  
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.  Female hummingbirds will beat their wings over their nests to cool their eggs or hatchlings. 
You can help our fine feathered friends by keeping your birdbath filled with clean water. 
Happy birding!

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