Winter is steadily imposing itself on Sydney and the temperatures are dropping. Some of us may crank up the heat, whilst others may don a ‘snuggie’, but what about birds?
This is Bruce, our male Andean Condor. He is a type of vulture and comes self-equipped with his very own in-built ‘snuggie’, having a dense collar of feathers around his neck. Andean Condors will ride the wind currents for hours at a time, soaring hundreds of kilometres, all in the search of food. But when you’re flying that high it can get a little chilly, so birds like Bruce will reduce their exposed surface area to trap heat. Bruce will bring those feathers up to cover his neck, wearing it like a scarf. When he comes down to the land, it is then too warm for him, so he can extend his neck again and let off that excess heat. During winter it is not uncommon to see that feathery collar up for long periods.
All birds have ways to conserve heat. By holding their feathers fluffed out from their body they can trap and insulating layer of warm air close to their body. It is very similar to us putting on a sweater, giving us an extra layer of warmth. In cooler areas of the world, like the Arctic tundra, this is a strategy a bird like a Snowy Owl might use. Others like toucans can actually restrict blood flow to areas of the body, like their beak, ensuring less heat is lost; as toucans can have massive beaks!
With heaters blazing this winter, one might consider that if Bruce can find an energy efficient way to keep warm, we can too and even reduce our carbon foot-print. Putting on an extra layer of clothing, keeping doors to adjoining rooms closed and ensuring curtains are drawn, are all ways we can trap heat, and maybe even save a little on our electricity bill.
Bird Show Keeper, Brendan