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Birds have their own ways of cooling off from the hot summer temperatures like rapid respiration rates and cool water dips. Freeuse photo

Exploring Nature: Heat & Birds

Sunday, August 19, 2018

It has been a tad warm around my place recently.

How warm? Well, hot water now comes out of both taps. Chickens are laying hard-boiled eggs. I turned on my sprinkler and steam came out. Trees are whistling for dogs. I even heard the pig say, “I’m bacon.”

These torrid temperatures make my backyard birdbath a welcome refuge for birds. I’ve had lots of mourning doves, a few sparrows and a couple of black vultures wade around and take drinks from that birdbath. I think the vultures are a couple since they seem all lovey-dovey and even touch beaks occasionally.

I also keep small saucers of water on a few tables on my deck and these seem especially popular with my Carolina chickadees. The only birds I never seem to see in the water are the blackchinned hummingbirds that hang around my sugar-water feeders.

The average bird has a body temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Birds’ high metabolic rate and active lifestyles generate even more heat that must be kept in check if the bird is to stay healthy and cool.

Birds use rapid respiration rates that allow greater heat dissipation even without panting or opening their bills. Bare skin patches on the legs, feet and face also allow heat loss. And birds of prey can soar to altitudes where it is cooler than the ground below.

Finally, the vulture has a rather crude method of cooling down – peeing on bare legs to cool off by evaporation.

Until things cool off around Halloween, I hope your air conditioning keeps working. And I hope you provide lots of water to your bird friends. They really need it.