No doubt about it, southeast Florida can be very hot in mid-August. So what do the birds do to keep cool??
Many birds, like Hawks and Wood Storks, soar overhead, circling above the wetlands to take advantage of high altitude currents where the air is cooler.
Most birds try to keep their cool by being much less active during the hottest mid-day hours. Some refresh themselves by dunking and bathing in the ponds.
But a lot of our wetland birds cool off by panting! This is an important type of thermoregulation; since birds do not have sweat glands, they must cool off via their respiratory system.
They literally rid their bodies of excess heat by standing around with their mouths open, “which allows water to evaporate from the surface of the air sacs.” (The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior, 2013, p.31).
You’ll also often see birds, like this Cormorant above, rapidly vibrating the throat, which increases the cooling effect even more. This curious-looking behavior, which looks sort of like gargling, is called gular fluttering.
BirdNote happened to air a segment recently called How Birds Stay Cool. It’s short and interesting, so have a listen!