Skip to main content

Data from: The environmental determinants of total evaporative water loss in birds at multiple temperatures

Cite this dataset

Song, Soorim; Beissinger, Steven (2020). Data from: The environmental determinants of total evaporative water loss in birds at multiple temperatures [Dataset]. Dryad.


Endotherms dissipate heat to the environment to maintain a stable body temperature at high ambient temperatures, which requires them to maintain a balance between heat dissipation and water conservation. Birds are relatively small, contain a large amount of metabolically expensive tissue, and are mostly diurnal, making them susceptible to physiological challenges related to water balance and heat dissipation. We compiled total evaporative water loss (TEWL) measurements for 172 species of birds exposed to different temperatures and used comparative methods to examine their relationships with body size, ambient temperature, precipitation, diet, and diel activity cycle. TEWL in the thermoneutral zone (TNZ) was associated primarily with body mass and activity phase. Larger and more active-phase birds, with their higher metabolic rates, lost more water through evaporation than smaller, resting-phase birds, particularly at higher thermal exposures. However, maximum temperature of the natural habitat became an important determinant of TEWL when birds were exposed to temperatures exceeding the TNZ. Species from hotter climates exhibited higher TEWL. Adaptation to arid climates did not restrict evaporative water loss at thermal conditions within the TNZ, but promoted evaporative water loss at exposures above the TNZ. The TEWL of granivores, which ingest food with low water content, differed little from species with other food habitats under all thermal conditions. The effects of environmental covariates of TEWL was dissimilar across thermal exposures, suggesting no evidence for a trade-off between water conservation in the TNZ and heat dissipation at exposure to higher temperatures. Thus, birds may be able to acclimate when climate change results in the need to increase heat dissipation due to warming, except perhaps in hot, arid environments where species will need to depend heavily upon evaporative cooling to maintain homeothermy.


The data were collected from previously published studies, which are described in the dataset. 

Usage notes

All missing values are either blank or filled with NA.