Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 3-3-1980

Journal Title

Physiological and Biochemical Zoology

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Biology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Ornithology | Physiology


Metabolism, body temperature (Tb), and feather reflectance was measured for dark Louisiana herons (LOU), little blue herons (LB), snowy egrets (SE), and cattle egrets (CE); only LOU nest preferentiallyin shade. The reflectance of LOU and adult LB was 13%-15%; it was 80%-82% for SE, CE, and immature (white) LB. Tb for all four species approximated 40 C; hypothermy was never observed. Basal metabolism (HJb) was 107% of the expected level for LOU, 85% for SE and CE, and 66% for LB. Minimal thermal conductance (C) was calculated as approximately 131% of the expected value for LOU, 115% for SE and CE, and 110% for LB. Metabolism and solar radiation may combine to produce heat stress in hot climates, particularly in dark birds; reduced Hb allows LB and other dark birds to nest in exposed sites. High values for C suggest a heat dissipation function; the relatively lower values are found in species with relatively lower Hb'S, thus preventing or reducing increases in T1, the lower limit of thermoneutrality. White plumage is thermally advantageous in tropical/subtropical birds nesting in open habitat, but dark coloration is not; other evolutionary explanations must be sought to explain the occurrence of dark birds in hot climates.


Original Publication Information:

Ellis, H.I. 1980. Metabolism and solar radiation in dark and white herons nesting in hot climates. Physiol. Zool. 53:358-372.