Heat and the Osprey Canopy

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Heat and the Osprey Canopy

2012-07-04T12:08:42+00:00July 4th, 2012|Uncategorized, Weather|3 Comments

I’ve never heard as much talk about the weather as I do here in the Northwest. Most people I meet do not like the drizzle, despite the fact that it’s an integral facet of living in a marine environment. For me, when the temperature starts to hit 80, I seek basement bunkers. Heat stroke cured me of sun worship. And then, living through years of Los Angeles water rationing and drought, I developed a love-love relationship with precipitation.

Because of that, I have deep empathy for the wildlife enduring heat waves across the country right now. I read a post this morning about the Kalamazoo Ospreys, the ones with their own Facebook page. The note said, in part:

“… how can the mom Osprey stay on the nest ALL day in this 100+ heat and direct sun as she shields her three chicks by spreading her wings to keep them from dying?”

When you look at the open sites Ospreys choose for nesting, you can’t help but consider the environmental exposure and predatory dangers. But, the Seattle Ospreys I’ve had the privilege to observe, are spared the worst of the meteorological assaults.

I found this video, shot this past June, of an Osprey parent in New Jersey, creating a canopy for her young who are panting in the heat and sun. I can’t imagine what that’s like for these birds … to sustain the behavior through a full day, let alone through prolonged periods of 100+ degrees. If this isn’t committed parenting …


  1. Mia McPherson July 5, 2012 at 5:11 am - Reply

    I have wondered how birds with dark plumage can handle the heat we have been having in the Salt Lake Valley, I see Burrowing Owls with their wings slightly spread and doing what is called “gular fluttering”, Ravens perched with their bills open all the time. After spending the morning photographing I tend to migrate inside where the air is cooler.

  2. Glenn Nevill July 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    I think smaller animals can radiate the heat more quickly than large ones, which surely will help in heat waves and birds can fluff up their feathers during the cold to act as insulators. None the less it is hard when nesting in the sun with no shade at all the entire day.

  3. ingrid July 5, 2012 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Yes, the nesting aspect seems most difficult because, as you say, in other circumstances, they can seek shade for at least part of the day. But considering how exposed most Osprey sites tend to be, they must be adapted to and accustomed to the heat-diffusing techniques. I was looking for some heat endurance studies, but didn’t find any in my initial searches.

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