Common Raven — Contending With The Heat

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We’ve had a much hotter and drier than normal summer this year.  We’ve had dozens of days in which the high temperature exceeded 100 degrees (about 38 degrees celsius) and more than a handful in which the high was above 110 (above 43 degrees celsius).  It’s been day after day of brilliant sunshine and stifling heat.

We humans can retreat to air conditioned locations on such days.  Not so for the wildlife, it must contend with the heat.  The fauna in our area have different strategies for doing so.  Some creatures spend the days in the relative coolness of underground burrows.  Others seek shade, hiding beneath low-growing shrubs.

Many birds employ a strategy known as “gular fluttering.”  They open their mouths and draw in air as they vibrate tissues in their throats.  The moisture in these tissues rapidly evaporates as it is exposed to air, producing a cooling effect.

I photographed this Common Raven the other morning as it engaged in gular fluttering.  It was a brilliantly sunny day and, at 9:00 a.m., the temperature already approached 100.  When I saw this raven at a distance I thought that it was calling.  In fact, it wasn’t uttering a sound, but rather, working to keep cool.

I encountered several other ravens that morning all doing the same thing.

Dealing with the heat must be especially difficult for ravens.  Their black plumage absorbs heat and I suspect that, as a consequence, they must work harder than do other species in order to keep cool.  Surprisingly, I saw dozens of ravens the other day all foraging in broad daylight despite the intense heat.  These highly intelligent birds must know what they’re doing.

Image made with a Canon 5Div, 400mm f4 DO II lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting, ISO 640, f7.1 @ 1/1000.

One Reply to “Common Raven — Contending With The Heat”

  1. Anne says:

    I have noticed birds dealing with the heat in this manner during our South African summer. They also spread their wings, use bird baths or seek shade during the hottest part of the day.

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