MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: Do birds sweat? If so, how?

Area: Zoology
Posted By: Keith McGuinness, Faculty Biology
Date: Mon Aug 4 22:33:13 1997
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 870064794.Zo

"Do birds sweat?"

The Question

Ed Stastny asked:

Do birds sweat? If so, how?

On a recent hot hot day in St.Louis, I saw a number of birds hopping around with their mouths open. I thought maybe they were doing this to cool down.

The Answer

Ed is absolutely correct!

Birds do not have sweat glands, so must use other means to keep cool when the environment is hot. The three main ways they do this are by:

  1. Panting, as Ed suggested: in other words, breathing in and out rapidly. Some birds may pant up to 300 times per minute under some conditions.
  2. Regulating blood flow in their feet: bird's legs and feet, because they lack feathers, are good sites for heat loss. By increasing the flow of blood to the skin of the legs and feet, birds can lose excess heat.
  3. Altering their behaviour: resting when it is hot and only becoming active when it becomes cool. This is, of course, a habit adopted by many animals in stressful environments.

Keith McGuinness
School of Biological & Environmental Sciences
Northern Territory University
Darwin, Australia

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