Can I get some relief from this heat??

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.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck bathing

Black-bellied Whistling Duck bathing

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.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

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.

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

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!

12 thoughts on “Can I get some relief from this heat??

  1. Good post. I agree this heat is oppressing and I am not even in FL. I am headed to PA next week and it will be in the mid-nineties. Here the upper 80’s. The temp is not the problem as much as is the humidity. I may be walking around with my mouth open too.

    • The most challenging days here are both temps in the 90’s and high humidity. Even the very occasional rain doesn’t really provide much relief. We humans just have to stay inside in the AC during midday!

  2. I have seen these same cooling behaviors here on the west side of Florida too. And recently noticed more and more birds vibrating their throats…I was not sure about why they did it …so thank you for the education!

  3. Gular Fluttering, I did not know that and did wonder if there was a term for the ‘panting like’ vibration of the throat. Thanks for that bit of information!!

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