How birds beat the heat Part 2 of 3
Sep 14, 2018
How birds beat the heat
Part II of III
Birds keep their cool in other ways too. They squish their feathers down flat to get rid of insulating air. Or, they erect their plumage to take advantage of the cooling power of a passing breeze. Soaring birds may hop thermals that carry them to cooler altitudes. Songbirds seek out shady spots and become as inactive as possible. Shorebirds stand in water for long periods during hot summer days. Their unfeathered, naked legs are uninsulated – perfect for shedding heat and conducting coolness.
Hummingbirds also show a lot of leg when it’s hot. Hummingbirds have the highest metabolic rate of any animal: thus, they generate a lot of heat. Add the heat of a summer day plus heat generated by these feathered dynamos, and you could have a recipe for disaster. In order to shed heat and maintain a constant body temperature (about 104 degrees F), hummingbirds usually slow down, limit their quest for nectar sources, perch quietly, and fully expose their feet and toes to the air. Heat radiates from their exposed skin, and passing breezes cool the birds down.
Next time: Even more techniques!