Birds, along with mammals, are endothermic.
As opposed to ectothermic (cold-blooded) organisms, such as lizards (which must use the sun to warm their bodies), birds and mammals are endothermic, so they can produce heat to keep their internal temperature at a constant level. In general terms, metabolic heat production provides the capacity for maintaining a core body temperature that is different from the ambient temperature and allows for avian thermoregulation.
Maintaining this core body temperature at a stable level, no matter the ambient temperature, means that birds must expend a great portion of their total energy to keep the status quo. In cooler climates, they need to generate heat. In warmer climates, such as they are now experiencing on Bonaire, they need to get rid of excess heat.
When it comes to avian thermoregulation, birds have developed some unique adaptations to cope with high temperatures. For example, they can reduce their heart rates, lower their respiratory rates, and even change their feathers’ color to reflect sunlight. These adaptations allow them to save energy and remain comfortable in hot environments.
Let’s take a closer look at a few of the mechanisms that you might observe Bonaire’s birds utilizing right now in order to keep their cool!