Toucans regulate their body heat via their beaks.

ToucanThe large beaks of these colourful birds help them to regulate their body temperature and dissipate excess heat quickly. In this way, the bird’s beak has a similar function to that of the elephant’s ear – and seems to be even more efficient according to researchers from Brock University in Canada. They observed the giant toucans with an infrared camera. Depending on the ambient temperature and body activity, the animals were able to regulate their «beak» heat exchanger within minutes.

The researchers studied the heat regulation of six giant toucans. Prior to each experiment they placed the birds into a cage inside a climate chamber. The normal body temperature of the birds is between 38 and 39 degrees Celsius. In the climate chamber, the researchers selected temperatures of between 8 and 36 degrees Celsius and used an infrared camera
to record how the bird’s beak reacted, as a heat exchanger, to the change in temperature.

Toucan infraredThe researchers found that the beak temperature reacted immediately to changes in ambient temperature. The body activity also affected the beak temperature. When it was necessary to retain heat in the body, perhaps because the bird was resting or sleeping, the temperature of the beak dropped.