We’re running uncomfortably low on wildlife photos, so if you have some good ones, please send them in!
Today’s photos are a series from Susan Harrison, a professor of ecology from UC Davis who has contributed once before. She portrays the many ways birds cope with extreme heat. Susan’s notes are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.
BIRDS IN HOT WEATHER
Spring and summer 2021 provided all too many opportunities to observe the ways birds cope with hot weather. Most of the pictures below were taken on days that reached the mid-30’s Celsius (mid-90’s Fahrenheit). The birds seemed to be doing fine, but who knows what future years will bring.
PANTING. These birds at Falcon State Park, Texas, in April look like they were calling or singing but they were actually panting.
Curve-billed Thrasher, Toxostoma curvirostre:
Long-billed Thrasher, T. longirostre:
Green Jay, Cyanocorax luxuosus:
Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullock:
GULAR FLUTTERING: An enhanced form of panting, found in some birds with throat pouches, seen here at Edinburg Wetlands Park, Texas, in April. [JAC: Mallards do this.]
Neotropic Cormorants, Phalacocorax brasiliensis:
FEATHER FLUFFING: This heat-deflecting technique may – I’m not sure – be what this bird was using on a hot April afternoon at Falcon State Park.
Vermilion Flycatcher, Pyrocephalus obscurus:
BATHING: The cooling approach most enjoyed by birds, humans, and other animals, here seen in Putah Creek, California in May.
Yellow Warbler, Setophaga petechia:
RESTING IN THE SHADE: These two large raptors were hanging out not far from each other along Putah Creek in May. Maybe it was too hot for songbirds to bother mobbing them?
Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, juvenile:
Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus:
SHADING THE NEST: Herons are known to use their wings to shade chicks in the nest. Four weeks after this photo was taken in Ashland, Oregon in May, temperatures reached 24 degrees Celsius above the long-term mean June high. I wasn’t around to see if these parents spread wings over their four young. Next time I’ll brave the heat and look.
Great Blue Herons, Ardea herodias:
FORAGING EARLY IN THE DAY: This species is an alpine specialist that forages around snowfields in summer. On a peak above Crater Lake, Oregon, on a day that hit 20 degrees Celsius above the long-term mean July high, I saw them active only before 8:00 am. The last small patches of snow largely disappeared that day. Will this species be the bird equivalent of pikas, with nowhere to go in a warmer climate?
Gray-crowned Rosy-finch, Leucosticte tephrocrotis: