In a study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, scientists from George Fox University, Oregon, have detailed how hummingbirds, and perhaps birds in general, manage to dissipate body heat through their shoulder joints, legs, feet, and from around their eyes.
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Scientists have always wanted to know how hummingbirds and other birds manage to lose body heat considering the fact that they are covered up in feathers which act as insulators, and yet hummingbirds beat their wings as much as 70 times per second.
Using a thermal camera, the BBC reports that scientists shot fascinating footage of hummingbirds avoiding overheating via “windows” made for heat loss around their eyes, legs, feet and shoulder joints.
NASA funded the research in order to determine the impacts of climate change on hummingbirds and other birds of interest.
Dr. Donald Powers, lead researcher for the study, noted that several birds that live in nests have “brood patches” that develop after sitting on their eggs for so long, and this gives the eggs exposures to the warmth generated by the birds’ warm skin.
"We wanted to understand how hummingbirds, and birds in general, get rid of the extra heat," Dr. Powers explained.
The areas around birds’ eyes, shoulders, and legs have very little feather density, and these are the areas from which heat is largely lost when the birds engage in long flights.
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"As flight power requirement increases- it is highest when hummingbirds hover - the amount of heat generated increases," Powers said. "But these 'windows' are sufficient at moderate temperatures to dissipate all excess heat across the full range of flight speeds in hummingbirds."