Australian heat wave could lead to mass die-offs of birds20/01/2013 14:05:37 Heat waves can be deadly for birds
January 2013. As the heat wave in Australia continues, many birds may no longer be able to take the heat and large numbers could die as a result, researchers at the Universities of Cape Town and Pretoria warn.
"Heat waves in 2009 and 2010, which did not reach the intensity of the current record-breaking heat wave, led to large die-offs of birds in parts of Australia" says Prof. Andrew McKechnie. Over the last few days, people are beginning to report finding dead birds in their backyards on Twitter. Conditions are likely worsening as the heat wave wears on.
An international research team, led by researchers at the Percy FitzPatrick Instutute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town, are investigating how heat waves affect the physiology and behaviour of birds. They are on high alert for reports of impacts of the current Australian heat wave as such events will be valuable for predicting how climate change will affect birds.
Birds lose condition above 35 ºC
Another study by the team, in collaboration with the University of New Mexico, suggests that at higher temperatures impacts could be more immediate. At temperatures of 45 ºC, and without access to water, the time for hydration levels to drop below thresholds critical for survival could be as short as 4 hours for a 5g bird, or 5.5 hours for a 25 g bird.
Many Australians are putting out extra water for wild birds and other animals which could prove critical to their survival. Ensuring such water dishes are placed in the shade may help further.