May 27 2012

Panting

Published by at 6:15 am under Bird Behavior,Weather & Sky

Egad it’s hot!

The temperature is 15 degrees above normal this weekend.  Tomorrow is Memorial Day but it feels like the Fourth of July.  By 11:00am it’s not fun to be outdoors so I go inside to cool off in the air conditioning.  But birds don’t have that option.  How do they cope with heat?

They pant.

Birds’ body temperatures are slightly higher than ours — about 104oF (40oC) versus our 98.6oF.   They don’t have sweat glands so they lose heat in other ways.  Dorothy’s showing us how in this photo taken on Banding Day:

  • Sleek the contour feathers so they transfer heat away from the body rather than retain it,
  • Expose the legs (and toes in Dorothy’s case) to let heat leave the skin,
  • Hold the wings away from the body,
  • And pant.

To keep heat at bay birds hide in the shade or soar high into cooler air.  Some large birds, such as vultures, cool their legs by excreting on them.  The small birds in my backyard cool their legs by hopping into my birdbath.

The Pitt peregrine chicks can’t fly to a birdbath, but you’ll see them on camera hiding in the shade and panting.

Until the weather breaks we’re all looking for relief.

(photo by Donna Memon)

One response so far

One Response to “Panting”

  1. Carlyon 28 May 2012 at 3:59 am

    Thanks for answering my question!

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