Monday, July 20, 2009

Bird on a Hot Shingle Roof

Summer camp session #3 is full and underway at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest. Although the temperatures have been mild for all three camp sessions and campers would try to avoid the heat if conditions were different, some animals actively seek out the hottest spots in the swamp!

The forest canopy blocks most of the sunlight from reaching the forest floor. However, where there are gaps in the canopy due to fallen trees, holes (deep, ever-present water preventing tree growth), or buildings, birds and reptiles take advantage of the ample solar heat. Obviously, reptiles use the solar energy to help regulate their body temperature, but what are the birds doing on the hot, shingle roof?

The shimmering images of the trees beyond the center attested to the heat rising from the nature center's roof. However, all afternoon we watched out our office window as Great-crested Flycatchers (Myiarchus crinitus), Tufted Titmice (Baeolophus bicolor), and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) flattened or contorted their bodies onto the roof to maximize their exposure to the hot shingles. Birds will take dust baths in order to encourage the evacuation of parasites from feathers and body. The birds themselves likely can stand the heat of the shingles longer than any parasites can survive or remain.

Wasn't it Tennessee Williams that said, "If you can't stand the heat, get off the roof!"

Images by Mark Musselman

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