Behavior & MigrationPanting (Gular Flutter)

Panting (Gular Flutter)

Quick Tip:  Adult and baby birds may pant when they are hot.  See tips on helping reduce the impact of heat stress on nestbox contents.

Photo by Christine Boran of VA, bluebird nestlings panting
Photo by Christine Boran of VA, bluebird nestlings panting

If it’s really hot out, and you see an adult or baby bird with their mouth open, looking like they are panting…they are panting! In birds, this response to heat stress is called “gular flutter.” Gular fluttering helps them maintain their body temperature, by dissipating heat through evaporation.  Basically, opening their mouth and fluttering or vibrating their neck muscles (in the throat or “gular” region) increases blood flow and moves air across the moist membranes in their mouth and esophagus, resulting in evaporative cooling.

As you might expect, the hotter they are, the more a bird pants. When the heat load is slight, gular flutter is intermittent.  As heat load increases, the amount of time spent panting increases.  When heat load is severe, gular flutter is continuous.  An adult bird might also open up or droop their wings and hold them away from their side. (Bartholomew 1968.)

Excessive heat can be fatal to eggs and nestlings in a nestbox.  Read more about how to help reduce heat stress.


  • Beat the heat (or cold)
  • Problem and Predator ID and Solutions
  • Glossary
  • Bartholomew, George A et al, Patterns of Panting and Gular Flutter in Cormorants, Pelicans, Owls and Doves, The Condor, 70:31-34, 1968 at extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/
  • RC Lasiewski, Physiological responses to heat stress in the poorwill, American Journal of Physiology, January 11, 1979

“Shadows are falling and I’ve been here all day/It’s too hot to sleep, time is running away/Feel like my soul has turned into steel/I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal.”
– Bob Dylan


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