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Great Blue Herons Cooling Off

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Birds have a number of ways of keeping cool. They don’t sweat, nor do they pant, but birds do have several behavioral adaptations which reduce their temperature. Often nestlings that are exposed to the relentless heat of the sun for long periods of time, such as platform-nesting raptors and herons, resort to what is called gular fluttering. They open their beaks and “flutter” their neck muscles, promoting heat loss – an avian version of panting.

Another avian strategy for cooling off is demonstrated by this adult Great Blue Heron — that of arranging its wings in a certain position in order to reduce its body heat.  Great Blue Herons droop their wings while standing, which allows air to circulate across their body and sweep away the excess heat.

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5 responses

  1. Recently saw American Bald Eagles doing similarly, high in some pines on Labrador Pond, Sumner, Maine

    September 7, 2016 at 8:01 am

  2. I remember turkey buzzards (vultures, they called ’em) in Texas passing over us on scorching days with their beaks open and tongues out. We were much the same down below.

    September 7, 2016 at 11:12 am

  3. Rachael Cohen

    Mary and everyone,

    I’ve just finished reading a fascinating book called “Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle” by Thor Hanson, which discusses the role of feathers (and absence thereof) in cooling, warming, flying, and much more. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Mary’s blog posts about birds.

    September 7, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    • Thank you, Rachael, for mentioning this wonderful book!

      September 7, 2016 at 3:57 pm

  4. Marcia Zweig

    Sounds like those birds we see are panting at the feeder, not threatening other hotties.

    Sent from my iPhone


    September 7, 2016 at 2:54 pm

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