Birds in the wild seem to reduce the temperature of their beaks to avoid heat loss and conserve energy when food is scarce, according to a study by a team of researchers from the University of Glasgow.
Published in the ‘Journal of Experimental Biology’, the research used thermal imaging technology to measure the body surface temperature of a small songbird, the great tit, when faced with a temporary food shortage.
Measurements showed that shortly after food was unavailable, the birds allowed their beaks to cool. The peak temperature was kept below the temperature of when food became available until food was returned. However, the peak temperature gradually started to increase about an hour until food restriction, suggesting a level of control over how much the invoice can cool and that invoice cooling can have unintended consequences, such as reducing invoice functionality.
This technique of birds cooling their beaks previously observed when food was restricted for long periods and in captivity, but this it is the first time that birds have been explored in the wild and where the initial response to a food restriction was investigated.
To the continually film a wild population of great titThe researchers were able to see that the peak temperature dropped immediately in response to food restriction.
The lead author, Lucy Winder, who conducted the study at the Scottish Center for Ecology and Natural Environment (SCENE) at the University of Glasgow, now at the University of Sheffield, said in a statement: “Not knowing where your next meal will come from can be a real challenge for wild animals that must gain enough energy to survive each day.
“What these findings tell us is that birds reduce heat loss from their bill by selectively restricting blood flow long before they go into starvation. So when the reliable food supply is cut off, birds predict they will face energy deficits in the future and they are taking preventive action to prevent this from happening.
“Our study demonstrates the ability of animals to adapt to changes in food availability, which may allow them to survive in an unpredictable changing environment.”
The research on a wild bird population in SCENE, based on the Loch Lomond coast, was confirmed by measurements of saithe in open-air aviaries at the University of Lund, Sweden.
The study also found that the temperature of the ocular region in wild birds remained at similar levels Throughout the food restriction, compared to unrestricted birds, suggesting that birds selectively cool the bill rather than lowering the temperature of all surface tissue.
Dr. Dominic McCafferty, a senior professor at the University’s Institute for Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, said: “Our findings provide evidence that birds selectively allow the bill to cool when a predictable food supply is suddenly interrupted, probably as a means of minimizing depletion of body reserves for future perceived energy shortages. This was an interesting finding as it demonstrates how small animals must respond to winter conditions when habitats are difficult and food is limited. “