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In New Mexico, temperatures are too high for birds to use their usual coping methods

BRYCE DIX, BYLINE: And this is Bryce Dix in Albuquerque, N.M., where the heat wave has triggered statewide excessive heat warnings. The scorching heat spells trouble for humans, but it's also hurting wildlife, especially bird populations. Normally to keep cool in heat waves like this, birds have a variety of tools at their disposal. Some urinate on their own legs, but the most common is a sort of avian panting. That's where the bird will open its mouth and flutter its neck muscles. But that panting can cause birds to lose water and become dehydrated rapidly. Now, experts say the climate is warming much too fast for birds to adapt.

BLAIR WOLF: We're talking about birds that breed once a year.

DIX: That's University of New Mexico biologist Blair Wolf. He's concerned for bird diversity in the Southwest and across the world as global temperatures recently reached the hottest they've ever been in history, causing unprecedented dehydration and loss of food sources.

WOLF: So there's not a lot of good news, and people need to wake up when you have 120 degrees over in Phoenix and 130 in Death Valley.

DIX: Those susceptible birds might include small songbirds like goldfinches, which get dehydrated fast, or birds like the curve-billed thrasher, which only live in the desert and can't move to cooler places. Some, he says, could be wiped out.

WOLF: The birds that are most susceptible to heat stress are just going to be gone.

DIX: In the meantime, blistering temperatures are expected to loom over the region throughout the next week, potentially breaking heat records in the process. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bryce Dix
Bryce is in his junior year as an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico. He has a passion for making anything media related, from fine art photography to recording audio or making short films. He enjoys making things come to life. What brings him into the radio? It’s a unique and interesting spin on storytelling. It’s quick and unpredictable and you never know what will be said live on the air.