Nav: Home

Small birds almost overheat while feeding their young

May 16, 2018

For decades, researchers have thought that access to food determined the brood size of birds. Now, biologists at Lund University in Sweden have discovered a completely new explanation: the body temperature of small birds can increase by more than 4°C to exceed 45°C when they are feeding their young. Larger broods would require more work, resulting in even higher body temperatures - something the birds would probably not survive.

"A body temperature of over 45°C must be close to fatal even for small birds", says Jan-Åke Nilsson, professor at Lund University.

Small birds, passerines, normally have a body temperature of around 41°C. Jan-Åke Nilsson and his colleague Andreas Nord studied marsh tits, discovering that their body temperature increased considerably as they worked hard, for example when feeding their young.

Flying back and forth to the nest means they do not get the opportunity to get rid of excess heat, resulting in a higher body temperature.

In addition, the study shows that the tits' body temperature follows the surrounding temperature. When the weather is warm, the birds' body temperature increases.

"If the climate becomes warmer, it could make small birds more vulnerable. Warmer springs would force them to produce and raise fewer offspring because they cannot feed them as often without risking death", says Jan-Åke Nilsson.

The researchers conducted the study by manipulating the brood size of the tits, making the broods larger or smaller. This enabled them to increase the variation in how hard the birds were forced to work. When the parents returned to the nesting box, the researchers measured their body temperature.

"It is interesting to observe that the marsh tits' physiological systems worked even with fluctuations in temperature of the magnitude we have shown. Imagine how humans would feel if our body temperature increased by 4°C", concludes Jan-Åke Nilsson.
-end-


Lund University

Related Birds Articles:

Birds become immune to influenza
An influenza infection in birds gives a good protection against other subtypes of the virus, like a natural vaccination, according to a new study.
Even non-migratory birds use a magnetic compass
Not only migratory birds use a built-in magnetic compass to navigate correctly.
When birds of a feather poop together
Algal blooms deplete oxygen in lakes, produce toxins, and end up killing aquatic life in the lake.
Birds of a feather mob together
Dive bombing a much larger bird isn't just a courageous act by often smaller bird species to keep predators at bay.
Monitoring birds by drone
Forget delivering packages or taking aerial photographs -- drones can even count small birds!
The color of birds
New research provides insight into plumage evolution.
Migrating birds speed up in spring
It turns out being the early bird really does have its advantages.
Birds on top of the world, with nowhere to go
Climate change could make much of the Arctic unsuitable for millions of migratory birds that travel north to breed each year, according to a new international study published today in Global Change Biology.
City birds again prove to be angrier than rural birds
The researchers' observations shed light on the effects of human population expansion on wildlife.
Teaching drones about the birds and the bees
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) of the future will be able to visually coordinate their flight and navigation just like birds and flying insects do, without needing human input, radar or even GPS satellite navigation.

Related Birds Reading:

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 7th Edition
by Jon L. Dunn (Author), Jonathan Alderfer (Author)

The Splendor of Birds: Art and Photographs From National Geographic
by National Geographic (Author), Catherine Herbert Howell (Author), Jonathan Baillie (Foreword)

Birds of the Photo Ark
by Noah Strycker (Author), Joel Sartore (Photographer)

National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America (National Geographic Backyard Guides)
by Jonathan Alderfer (Author), Paul Hess (Author)

Bird Box: A Novel
by Josh Malerman (Author)

The Wall of Birds: One Planet, 243 Families, 375 Million Years
by Jane Kim (Author), Thayer Walker (Author)

The Genius of Birds
by Jennifer Ackerman (Author)

Handbook of Bird Biology (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
by Irby J. Lovette (Editor), John W. Fitzpatrick (Editor)

Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song
by Les Beletsky (Author)

American Museum of Natural History Birds of North America
by Paul D. Hess (Contributor), David Bird (Contributor)

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Approaching With Kindness
We often forget to say the words "thank you." But can those two words change how you — and those around you — look at the world? This hour, TED speakers on the power of gratitude and appreciation. Guests include author AJ Jacobs, author and former baseball player Mike Robbins, Dr. Laura Trice, Professor of Management Christine Porath, and former Danish politician Özlem Cekic.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#509 Anisogamy: The Beginning of Male and Female
This week we discuss how the sperm and egg came to be, and how a difference of reproductive interest has led to sexual conflict in bed bugs. We'll be speaking with Dr. Geoff Parker, an evolutionary biologist credited with developing a theory to explain the evolution of two sexes, about anisogamy, sexual reproduction through the fusion of two different gametes: the egg and the sperm. Then we'll speak with Dr. Roberto Pereira, research scientist in urban entomology at the University of Florida, about traumatic insemination in bed bugs.