Keeping It Cool in Summer

Last Sunday, Isadora Finch led a summer workshop on “Thermoregulation” (which is basically just a fancy way of saying she was teaching techniques for how we can all stay cool in the summer). The workshop was held under a shady tree west of the Prospect Park baseball diamonds. It was well attended by a wide variety of birds, including Buzz Bigwings, a large turkey vulture who was passing through the NYC area.

Finch began the workshop by demonstrating the well-known “Feathers A-Flutter” technique, which involves holding your wings out and fluttering your feathers in a way that lets cooler air circulate around your hot skin. 

She also recommended periodically “opening your beak and panting, like a dog”, to which a passing beagle on a leash muttered “what’s that supposed to mean?” before he was yanked away. According to Finch the panting helps heat escape our bodies. The wider you open your beak, the more you will cool down. 

A peregrine falcon who was attending suggested her own technique of flying up to a higher height where the air is a bit cooler. The falcon then invited one of the smaller sparrows up with her to try it out but the sparrow declined, warily.

Buzz Bigwings then chimed in to say that when he gets too hot he just pees on his own legs. A few of the birds were aghast at this and accused the vulture of making it up. Some background research by The Brooklyn Bird Bugle uncovered that this is in fact true and it is called “urohydrosis”. Only some birds species actually do it, and it does indeed help cool down their legs. 

Vulture wearing an "I Love NY" hat
Buzz Bigwings, a visiting turkey vulture.

Overall the workshop was a big success and participants left with new techniques to try. However a few of the birds complained that it seems like lately we’ve all been having to do more and more work every year just to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. 

“It’s not like it used to be,” grumbled Tony Redplume. “If this hot summer weather keeps getting worse I’m just going to have to start flying further and further north.”

Illustration: © Fiona Carswell, 2021.