Wildlife response to PNW "heat dome"/heat wave

I’ve been reading reports about the heatwave in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. (and across the globe) this week. I keep thinking, if one could withstand the heat, I bet it would be an interesting time to observe wildlife to see how they are coping with the extreme heat they are (regionally) unaccustomed to. Does anyone have any interesting observations to share links to? For example, unlikely parings of animals cooling themselves in streams or whatnot… or an action shot of a vulture urinating on it’s legs to stay cool - just learned about this tactic…so gross and cool.

Anyway, stay safe and cool everybody!

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As you note, given the extreme heat, I suspect that many of us will be doing less observing and spending more time indoors. Where I am right now it’s 44.1 44.7 °C outside. Dubai has lower daytime highs right now! :hot_face:

Perhaps it’s not surprising, but I have only seen one bird fly by my window today whereas on a normal day, I’d usually see birds outside quite regularly.

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I’m not in the PNW but I remember a few years ago my area had an extreme heat event where the temperature jumped up to record highs very suddenly. Like one day it was 80 F and the next 116 F. I work full time outdoors, and I did see many plants have tissue damage and many small animals just die, particularly baby birds in nests. The ants went crazy the following few days eating the bodies.

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Someone I know in southeastern New Mexico noted several years ago that when the temperature hit about 115 F even the normally heat loving dragonflies hunkered down in the shade. He had a photo of several perched under a tree.

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I am in the Seattle are, where we clocked temps of over 112 today. I have not seen any drastic affects, although there seem to be much more nocturnal insects due to night time heat, and much less day time birds. I am also seeing more mammals moving about. I have noticed that the birds pant to stay cool like dogs, which is kinda interesting. I have seen chickens do it, but never wild birds until this point.

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I’m on Cougar Mountain in King County, Washington. Over the past few days, I’ve had a significant increase in nighttime insect activity, making for some very enjoyable mothing (including many lifer beetles and moths). I haven’t run into any mammals except for squirrels and rats, all of whom are spending most of their time in tree holes and burrows, respectively. As far as birds go, activity has been reduced overall and most of the birds I see are panting. Since many were still dead-set on getting to my feeder, I placed a dog bowl with ice water under it earlier today, and have since seen many drinking from and bathing in it.

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Corvallis, Oregon. Since I’m not going out in this heat, I’m not seeing much. Very few birds are coming to the feeder. This juvenile Scrub Jay was panting: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/84797579

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When the heat wave started, a tree frog moved into the potted loquat trees on our balcony. It has been there for several days now, sometimes moving to a different plant, but not leaving the cluster of potted trees. We think it is sheltering from the heat - the potted trees get watered every day and their soil is moist.

I don’t have an observation, but we have also noticed lots of Lorquin’s admirals converging on the garden immediately after it is watered, more than I’ve seen in one place before. Perhaps they are puddling.

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Not USA, but it happened first time since 2010, in Saint-Petersburg temperature was higher than the record of 1917 (32.9С while medium t. for June is 20C), here in Moscow whole week was 33+, which is insane for the region. Main thing I saw is amount of horseflies, many more than regulary of different genera, another reason to stay at home! Hopefully it all ended 2 days ago and yesterday we had a storm with 23m/sec wind and now are left with many fallen trees, but at least it’s not hot!

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(meanwhile Cape Town is freezing. AKA 10C outside)

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I observed a tree frog doing the same thing yesterday.

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Oh interesting to see the panting in action. Thanks for sharing the observation. My friend who lives in the Pacific Northwest said he hasn’t seen a bird in days.

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I’ve lived most of the last 15 years in areas that semi regularly get north of 100 with occasional air temps of 110 or more; gets hot enough you stop even seeing critters like whip tails and collared lizards out. You go outside and there’s just not much stirring. If night cools off you may see usually diurnal animals out and about after dark.

For locals there; if you can, try to provide a water source in a shaded area. But mostly keep yourselves safe! Heat exhaustion sucks, heat stroke can kill.

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Oh, the poor bird!

I live in NYC, far from the heat of the Northwest, but we had a brief episode of hot weather and topped 100F on Wednesday. (I’m old enough to remember when temps above 90F were extremely rare.)

10C sounds delightful!

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90 in the shade was my definition of hot as a child.
Then we went metric, and I learnt that 40C is my personal limit.

I used to keep rescued captive cockatiels. When they became old and needed to be kept inside or in sheltered aviaries in winter, I did a lot of things to try and achieve stable temperatures in sun, indoor or out. When I messed up and it became too hot for them, (and they are an Australian species, so one would think built for quite warm temps), they would start to gape, ie breathe with their mouths open, and I dont think they could have sustained those conditions (which I amended immediately).
So I am distressed to hear of wild birds panting. Unlike a dog, I do not think it is a sustainable cooling mechanism for birds, who in general need to conserve energy, esp. when not able to feed adequately and frequently, I think?

Does anyone know whether this panting is sustainable in any species of birds? Perhaps birds that feed infrequently, eg raptors perhaps?

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I don’t know how sustainable it is, but many birds are seen with open mouths when it’s not even incredibly hot, so it should work?

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I don’t know, either, but I would think with the air sacs they have in addition to their lungs the rate of dehydration might be higher. On the other hand, that may make their panting/cooling more efficient. In any case, animals at the extreme ends of their temperature tolerances must be at risk of injury or worse.

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During the four days of the heat wave, over 300 birds including 75 Cooper’s Hawks were captured and taken to the Portland, Oregon, Audubon Society’s bird rescue group. These are both records. Many of the birds lept from the nest early, as nestlings will do when the nest gets too hot.

https://www.oregonlive.com/weather/2021/07/portland-heat-wave-animal-services-saw-historic-unreal-uptick-in-heat-related-illnesses-calls.html

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