can birds die from heat

The water requirements and survival times of 27 desert bird species found in Yuma, USA, and Queensland, Australia, were modelled for current temperatures and those predicted for the 2080s in order to ascertain the impact of climate change on droughts and avian survival times (McKechnie and Wolf 2010). The hottest part of the day (12–6 pm) was used to model water requirements, and survival times were calculated as the amount of time it took for cumulative evaporative water loss to surpass a practical dehydration threshold.

As would be expected, in the 2080s, avian water requirements were significantly higher than they are now, and smaller-bodied birds had shorter survival periods. This is because smaller birds find it more difficult to withstand rising temperatures because water loss decreases with increasing body mass.

Up until now, most studies on climate change have concentrated on long-term patterns in precipitation or temperature, paying little attention to changes in the frequency or severity of extreme weather events. However, extreme events are expected to occur more frequently (Solomon et al. 2007), and nations like Australia are probably experiencing high rates of drought-related avian mortality (Mckechnie et al. 2012).

It is predicted that the intensity, frequency, and duration of severe heat waves—which occasionally kill large numbers of birds in hot desert environments—will increase. Higher temperatures will significantly increase the amount of water needed, especially for small birds, which will drastically lower survival rates. By the 2080s, it is anticipated that this will happen far more frequently, increasing the frequency of catastrophic mortality events. Survival period in the United States for small birds by 2080 compared to 1990s temperatures

Because they are small in stature, primarily nocturnal in nature, and inhabit environments with minimal temperature fluctuations, desert birds are especially susceptible to severe heat waves. Large-scale bird die-offs have occurred in the past; for example, 208 Short-billed Black Cockatoos (Zanda latirostris) perished in South West Australia during a two-day heat wave (Saunders et al. 2011).

The results are based on an examination of 152,000 nesting records gathered by Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s NestWatch program, which involves local volunteers monitoring nests and reporting indicators of bird health and behavior via an online app. Information includes things like how many eggs are laid, how adults nest, and what the young birds do.

They discovered that mating adults have “significantly diminish[ed] reproductive success” in unshaded farm fields compared to those living in nearby forests, where temperatures can be up to 10 degrees Celsius higher. Reproduction success is defined by scientists as the emergence of at least one fledgling from a nest during each breeding season.

The findings, published Thursday in the journal Science, add to a growing body of research about the effects of climate change on birds that scientists say are indicators of ecological decline. In 2019, experts from seven major ornithological institutions and nonprofits estimated that North America’s breeding adult birds had declined by 30 percent since 1970, a loss of nearly 3 billion birds.

According to Cornell lab research associate Conor Taff, the UC Davis study is noteworthy for its national scope and offers a substantial data source for scholars who have typically concentrated on specific regions. Additionally, he stated that the study lays the groundwork for future research on additional species and the impacts of climate change on their habitats.

Leading the data collection effort was Daniel Karp, an associate professor of biology at UC Davis. “This suggests that species already in decline may have an even greater difficulty rearing young in the future as heat waves become more common and more land is converted to agriculture,” Karp said in a statement.


Do birds die in extreme heat?

CLIMATEWIRE | Millions of young birds die from extreme heat in farm fields across America in what researchers say is a growing threat from climate change that could affect avian populations.

What temperature is too hot for my bird?

Usually the ambient temperature is lower than the bird’s body temperature, and the bird’s metabolism produces heat to keep warm. But when the outside air rises above about 40 degrees C (104 degrees F) the bird’s metabolic heat will cause it to get too warm. So the bird needs to cool down.

How do you know if a bird is too hot?

A bird that is too hot will have very sleek feathers held tightly to the body, will hold its wings (shoulders) slightly away from its body and may pant. If you see any of these signs your bird is much too warm and the environmental temperature should be reduced accordingly.

Can birds get heat stroke?

“If it’s really hot, they can’t evaporate enough water to stay cool, so they die of heatstroke. If it’s hot and there’s no water, then they get dehydrated and may die of dehydration.” Avoiding the worst effects of a warming climate for birds and people will require decisive action.