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Birds Strive To Survive The Heat

Grackle panting and seeking shade to cool down
Grackle panting and seeking shade to cool down

With the deadly heat and drought we are experiencing, birds have to use every means possible to survive.

Like mammals, birds are warm-blooded creatures. They can maintain their body temperature when the surrounding air changes to cooler or warmer. They are able to generate their body heat through metabolic processes.

One technique birds use to control heat is evaporative cooling. This is done by panting. Panting increases the rate of water evaporation from their body thereby dissipating heat. However, this practice results in loss of body water. Birds must replace this water quickly or face dehydration.

Other responses to heat include

  • seeking shade
  • elevating wings
  • perching in a breeze
  • sleeking plumage
  • avoiding hot surfaces

Unlike adult birds, most newly hatched young do not have ways of maintaining their body temperature. Their primary need in this helpless, naked, sleepy state is protection from the elements. During hot weather parents shade the nestlings from the sun. Parents will tilt their wings to deflect the slightest breeze onto their young.

After their first ten days, nestlings develop temperature controls to handle their needs.


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